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Wednesday, March 26, 2008 02:38 am

Questions and answers

What the Rezko trial may mean for Blagojevich

Untitled Document I get questions all the time, so here are a few answers . . . The judge in Tony Rezko’s federal corruption case has barred some evidence about the personal life of star prosecution witness Stu Levine, saying it could prejudice the jury against his testimony. Was he that bad?
The feds have used admitted murderers to testify against mobsters, so whatever it is in Levine’s past that caused the judge to ban the testimony can’t be good. Will Gov. Rod Blagojevich be indicted? It certainly looks that way. It’s more than obvious that the prosecution is working its way up the ladder toward him. Rezko is an extremely high rung on that ladder. If U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald convicts Tony Rezko with evidence that shows that the governor’s office was corrupted by money and influence, Blagojevich’s goose could be cooked. On a different topic, Senate President Emil Jones is now a co-sponsor of Sen. James Meeks’ income-tax-increase bill. Is Jones really setting up a showdown with his ally Blagojevich, who has once again threatened to veto the idea if it passes? Jones has said that his top priority this year is uniting his horribly fractured caucus. Much of the internal dissent last year was caused by his members’ anger at Jones’ blind allegiance to the wildly unpopular and possibly corrupt Blagojevich. Jones’ allegiance included going along with the governor’s opposition to an income-tax increase. By allowing this bill to move ahead, Jones can cool some of the hot tempers among his fellow Senate Democrats, most of whom support an income-tax hike. Frankly, though, it really doesn’t matter what happens to the bill. If it somehow passes the Senate, so much the better. If the governor vetoes it, he can schedule an override vote. His unhappy members become happier, and that may help Jones do other things this year because they’ll be far more willing to go along with the program. That’s all good for Jones. But don’t expect this to become law — at least not yet.
Are we in for another long overtime session? The outlook is stormy. House Speaker Michael Madigan is still furious at Jones for reneging on last year’s budget agreement by refusing to override the governor’s vetoes of House Democratic pork projects. “You only get one big lie,” was the quote I got from Madigan. Blagojevich and Madigan are still sniping at each other in the press. Some of Jones’ members are outraged at the way in which some House members interfered in their primaries last month. Jones has never been able to get past his belief that Madigan doesn’t show him sufficient respect, and he can’t be happy with the way the speaker has meddled in caucus business. The stage could be set for another long one.
How could the madness be stopped? Jones is the key. Blagojevich is going to get hammered in the next three or four months by the Rezko corruption trial. Blagojevich, as is his wont, will likely oppose just about anything that’s put forth by Madigan. But this trial means that he’s a man desperately in need of friends — so if Jones breaks from his past practice of simply following the governor down every goofy path and starts to actually do things that the governor may not completely care for, he might be able to persuade Madigan to go along. Despite their problems, Madigan and Jones are cut from the same cloth. The two old bulls can understand each other. And Blagojevich, who would be boxed out, may have no choice but to get on board. Then again, all three men can be supremely stubborn, paranoid, and vindictive, so I’m still betting on chaos.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily
political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.
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