Could 'Rezko cloud' darken governor's future?

CHICAGO Rod Blagojevich's name came up dozens of times during the federal trial that ended Wednesday with the conviction of Tony Rezko. Thursday, fewer than 24 hours after the guilty verdicts, some legislative leaders say the "Rezko cloud" could darken the governor's future and his effectiveness.

"It just seems like Illinois has had a lot of problems with corruption, and here we are again," said Sen. Frank Watson, (R) Illinois Senate minority leader.

As state legislative leaders held their budget meeting with Governor Rod Blagojevich, there was an invisible 800-pound gorilla in the room. His name is Tony Rezko, the governor's friend and campaign fundraiser who was found guilty Wednesday of corruption charges.

"I'll concede it's a big distraction, we've got stuff to do, we've got a budget that's out of balance by $2.5 million, I can't just walk away and say 'we've got a distraction, we're not going to do anything about it'," said Rep. Tom Cross, (R) Illinois House minority leader.

"We do need to move forward, because there's going to be a certain lack of trust," said Watson.

During the 13-weeks-long trial witnesses testified that businessman Rezko used his influence with Blagojevich to stack two state boards before trying to extort kickbacks from companies that wanted to do business with those boards.

It was also alleged that Blagojevich visited Rezko's North Side office where he accepted campaign cash while promising one donor a job in his administration.

"You got the potential of Rezko sitting in a cell singing. If I were Rod Blagojevich I would need a lot of help sleeping at night," said Don Rose, political consultant.

After Rezko's guilty verdict was announced, the U.S. attorney would not comment when asked if he would recommend a lesser prison term if Rezko agreed to become a witness in other corruption investigations.

Thursday, the governor would not take questions before or after the budget meeting. Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, a fellow Democrat and staunch Blagojevich ally, downplayed the affect of the Rezko conviction.

"We've got 12 million people in the state to take care of. It has no impact," Jones said.

The U.S. attorney Wednesday pledged to continue the federal investigation into state government corruption. From what we heard during the trial, there are many other people Tony Rezko might implicate should he become a government witness.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.