RICO Suit Against Blagojevich Cites Payments Exposed by NLPC

Blagojevich photoLast week, Courthouse News Service reported:

In a federal action, four casinos say former Gov. Rod Blagojevich used the governor’s office to enrich himself by agreeing with horse track owner John Johnston to secure enactment of legislation forcing casinos to pay millions of dollars to five horse tracks that included two controlled by Johnston.

To conceal their actions, Johnston arranged for the money to be paid through several entities under his control, according to the complaint. As a result, the plaintiff casinos say they had to pay $89.2 million for redistribution to horse tracks and their owners, fattening the tracks’ profits at the plaintiffs’ expense.

In February, NLPC released a study showing that Johnston-owned or affiliated interests contributed more than $343,000 to Governor Blagojevich’s campaign committee during 2002-2007. This total was $183,000 more than alleged in previous news accounts.

Additionally, NLPC’s analysis revealed a suspicious pattern to the contributions. Different Johnston-owned or affiliated interests made donations on the same day on at least six different occasions during the 2002-2007 time period. On at least two occasions, contributions totaling $100,000 or more were received by the Friends of Blagojevich campaign on the same day or within days of each other.

Johnson owns Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, two Chicago-area harness racing tracks.

The legislation directing a percentage of casino revenue to horse racing is referenced on page 39 of the FBI affidavit that outlined the criminal case against Blagojevich in December 2008.

The Illinois House Impeachment Committee released transcripts of conversations between Governor Blagojevich and his brother Rob about an expected $100,000 contribution from John Johnston allegedly in exchange for the Governor signing the bill. According to the transcripts, Blagojevich’s brother quoted Johnston as agreeing to make the $100,000 contribution and saying “I gotta just decide what, what uh, accounts to get it out of.”

photo: AP/Wide World