Tony Rezko, the corrupt former Illinois political fixer, finally broke his silence this week, dishing from prison about what he described as former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s role in schemes to hand out coveted seats in state government in exchange for mountains of campaign cash.
Serving a 10 ½ year bit in federal prison in central Illinois, Rezko refused to talk about his connections to President Barack Obama, but spoke freely about Blagojevich in what the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on Wednesday called a “wide-ranging telephone interview.”
“We would have the discussions,” Rezko told the newspaper. “X, Y and Z made a $50,000 [contribution] and looking to be placed on a board, where should we place that person if that person specifically requested to be placed on board. Yeah. We had these discussions.”
In his prime, Rezko was a high roller and fundraiser in Illinois politics. Though he remained behind the scenes mostly, he managed to get near some of the state’s biggest political stars, including Obama. In 2006, the Obamas bought a piece of land from Rezko’s wife in a deal that would later become a campaign problem for the future president. Obama eventually tried to wash his hands of Rezko and gave the fixer’s campaign donations to charity.
In the interview on Wednesday, Rezko focused mostly on Blagojevich, the flamboyant former Democratic governor who is now serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison in Colorado in part for trying to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat after the 2008 election.
“I think it’s ridiculous for him to be given 14 years,” Rezko told the newspaper. “It’s not about justice. You think that’s justice?”
Blagojevich’s lawyer defended the imprisoned governor against Rezko’s latest allegations, telling the newspaper there was no evidence Blagojevich ever knew that seats on state boards were being sold for campaign donations.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com