Blago’s brother heads to D.C. to talk about Senate seat controversy
BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 13, 2012 12:08AM
Robert Blagojevich, left, is expected to be interviewed by the U.S. House Committee on Ethics in its investigation of U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr.
Updated: May 14, 2012 8:23AM
As Rod Blagojevich serves a 14-year sentence for trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, the former governor’s brother is headed to Washington to talk about who he says offered to buy it.
The U.S. House Committee on Ethics, which is investigating U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), is expected to interview Robert Blagojevich later this month, sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times.
The panel is taking up Rob Blagojevich on the offer he made last year to provide details about being approached with a pay-to-play scheme for Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Rob Blagojevich — a former military man whose life was upended after being charged along with his brother — has said he has more to tell Congress about Jesse Jackson Jr.’s alleged involvement in the Senate seat sale. Some of the information about the case has not been made public, he has said.
“I believe I have information I think will help them find the truth” on Jackson, Rob Blagojevich told the Sun-Times last fall after personally writing to 10 members of Congress on the ethics committee investigating Jackson.
The congressmen are apparently ready to hear what he has to say.
Reached by phone on Thursday, Rob Blagojevich said he had no comment. But he has long said he felt wronged by the government’s case against him, which he characterized as an intrusion since it included tapping his cell phone and recording private conversations between him and his wife and him and his son. (He also has said his brother’s prison sentence was “grossly unfair and wrong.”)
When he offered up his testimony last year, Rob Blagojevich told the Sun-Times that Jackson had some explaining to do.
“Based on what I know, I believe Jesse Jackson Jr. has a lot of unanswered questions that he needs to answer,” Robert Blagojevich said at the time.
Rob Blagojevich has said two different people in 2008 — including a fund-raiser for Jackson — told him that Jackson would help fuel Rod Blagojevich’s campaign fund if the former governor appointed Jackson to the U.S. Senate.
A wiretapped recording has the former governor indicating a Jackson emissary offered $1.5 million for the Senate seat appointment. After Obama was elected president in 2008, Rod Blagojevich had the sole authority to name his replacement to the U.S. Senate.
Jackson vigorously lobbied for the post, but he has always maintained his efforts were lawful.
In 2009, the Office of Congressional Ethics launched an inquiry against Jackson based on the criminal complaint filed against the former governor.
In December, the panel issued a 30-page report finding there was “probable cause” to believe that Jackson either directed a key fund-raiser to approach Rod Blagojevich in 2008 with a pay-to-play offer or knew of the plan. The report also found probable cause that Jackson had improperly used his office to mount a campaign for the Senate in 2008.
Jackson was called as a witness by the defense during the former governor’s trial, and Jackson reiterated that he never directed anyone to make a money offer for the Senate seat.
The Sun-Times reported in 2010 that Raghuveer Nayak, a close Jackson family friend and donor, has told federal authorities that Jackson directed him to approach the Blagojevich camp with a $6 million offer.
He also told authorities that he secretly paid to fly a female friend of Jackson’s to Chicago from Washington, D.C. Jackson apologized for the relationship with the so-called “social acquaintance” but denied Nayak’s pay-to-play allegations.
Nayak himself continues to be a target of a federal investigation into an unrelated matter tied to surgical centers he owns.
Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption last year and in December was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Rob Blagojevich after his first trial ended with a hung jury.
For his part, Jackson has not been contacted recently by the ethics committee and has not been asked to provide any further information, according to his attorney.
The “congressman doesn’t know Robert Blagojevich. Has never met with Robert Blagojevich. Has never had a conversation with Robert Blagojevich and has never sent any emissaries to meet or have conversations with Robert Blagojevich,” Jackson’s attorney, Paul Langer said Thursday. The “congressman continues to fully cooperate with the House subcommittee. He has not been asked to provide any additional information or documentation to the committee. His response is posted on that entity’s Web site.”
An attorney with the ethics panel could not be reached for comment.