APRIL 23, 2008
A high-ranking official in Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration pleaded guilty to a pair of federal charges and revealed that the Democrat governor offered him his coveted state job in exchange for thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
Ali Ata, the executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, pleaded guilty this week to lying to the FBI and filing a false tax return. The agency he headed was created by Gov. Blagojevich in 2004 and has provided $11 billion in funding for hundreds of projects. Although Ata had no finance experience, he was promised the $127,000-a-year state job as a reward for his generous contributions and fundraisers that helped fill Blagojevich’s campaign coffers.
Another top Blagojevich fundraiser, Antoin Rezko, has already been indicted and is currently being tried in federal court. Ata and Rezko, both prominent Chicago Arabs well-known in Democratic circles, actually worked together and have been the center of the federal government’s investigation of influence peddling in Blagojevich’s scandal-ridden administration. Rezko is also a close friend and top donor of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Ata could face 18 months in prison, but he is cooperating with federal authorities to minimize the sentence. This should be of tremendous concern to both the Illinois governor and senator, who could very well be the 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate. Ata’s cooperation could also inspire the feds to drop a previous charge of producing a bogus document to help Rezko in a $10 million fraud scheme.
Like a good corrupt politician, Blagojevich maintains his innocence even though the big skeletons are slowly coming out of the closet. Through a spokesperson, the governor once again denied any wrongdoing by stressing that his administration doesn’t endorse or allow the decision of sate government to be based on campaign contributions.
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