Blagojevich awaits trial in ‘pay to play’ toll contracts

| 4/21/2010

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich goes on trial in June for his role in alleged “pay to play” schemes. One of the schemes involved soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for toll road contracts.

Among the charges, Blagojevich is accused of soliciting a $500,000 campaign contribution from a cement company in exchange for a $1.8 billion toll contract. That contract involved the installation of high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes, within the existing Illinois Tollway system.

The so-called “Green Lanes” project never got off the ground in 2008. By January 2009, the Illinois House voted to impeach Blagojevich on accusations of abuse of power. Blagojevich continues to deny criminal wrongdoing.

In June, he is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Illinois on charges of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery and conspiracies to commit the same.

U.S. attorneys stated that Blagojevich and several other people schemed about ways to use his position to make money.

The attorneys stated in a pre-trial document that Blagojevich directed his chief of staff, Alonzo Monk, to solicit $500,000 from engineering firms prior to the enactment of a new law limiting contributions from companies doing business with the state. Blagojevich and Monk allegedly used the $1.8 billion toll road contract and a larger $5 billion contract as incentives to solicit the contributions.

In deposition, an unidentified construction executive said he felt pressured.

“Both Monk and Construction Executive understood that Blagojevich was making a connection in the meeting between the amount of money that Construction Executive might be able to raise for Blagojevich and his willingness to do the larger Tollway program,” attorneys stated in the court document.

“As a result of Blagojevich’s statements, Construction Executive felt pressure from Blagojevich to raise money for Blagojevich so that he would allow the larger Tollway program to go forward.”

– By David Tanner, associate editor