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Friday, October 31, 2008

The Indictment of William Cellini and Illinois' Shadow Government

Yesterday, the Federal Prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald handed down several indictments for one William Cellini. Who is William Cellini? Even if you reside in Illinois Cellini is likely a name you weren't aware of until reading this piece. Yet, according to the indictment, Cellini, and other power brokers like Anton Rezko and Stuart Levine, made up a shadow government that really made the shots in the state government. These power brokers made decisions based on one motivation only...their own pocket books. It should also be noted that Cellini is a life long Republican. He got into bed with Democrats like Rezko and Levine to make up this shadow government that was really calling the shots behind the scenes of the Blagojevich administration.

How did all of this work? First, folks like Cellini and Rezko became top fundraisers for the likes of Governor Rod Blagojevich (and one former State Senator now on the cusp of being President). Once they became indispensable allies of the man in charge, they used that influence to influence most of the political apparatus of the state government.

For instance, one of the charges that Cellini is facing is influencing the Teachers' Retirement System. After raising millions for Governor Blagojevich, Stuart Levine, one of Cellini's associates, became a member of the board of the TRS. Then, Levine, Rezko and Cellini worked behind the scenes to put as many of their cronies on the board. Then, the TRS doled out contracts and other monies to Levine, Rezko, Cellini and their friends.

This was the modus operendi for Rezko, Levine, Cellini and other political insiders. They bought influence by becoming top fundraisers for politicians like Governor Blagojevich. Then, they used that influence to put themselves and their own cronies in as many influential places as possible throughout the State Government apparatus. Once in place, the shadow government was in a position to dole out as much State government money as possible to themselves and their friends. This Boston Globe report shows exactly how the likes of Tony Rezko used this same shadow government and its results.

The boon on this scheme for Rezko and his friends was about $200,000,000, and so was the tab to the Illinois tax payer. The result was low income housing that is no longer livable.

This shadow government even attempted starting in 2004 to remove Patrick Fitzgerald from his post. The indictment yesterday speaks for itself and should tell everyone why they were so gung ho to remove him. That's how this shadow government works. Put cronies in friends in a position of influence and power and remove all nuisance and opponents.

This sort of shadow government is not new to Cellini. Today's Chicago Tribune describes how Cellini used his influence in the Jim Edgar administration to give his own firm a sweetheart deal for a hotel/casino in Alton, Illinois. This was a deal that was a boon to his firm and wound up being wasted millions for the tax payers.

That's how it works. Get close to the top of political power in the state government by buying influence. Then, use that influence to infect as much of the government apparatus as possible with cronies and friends. Then, those cronies and friends dole out government money back to the same cronies and friends. It's like any other business. There is an investment and there is a return on investment. The investment is hundreds of thousands or even millions in campaign contributions. The return on investment is hundreds of millions, and so is the tab to the tax payers of Illinois.

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