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Obama, Union Official Discussed Jarrett for Senate

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Chicago Tribune:

Obama, union official discussed Jarrett for Senate

Next on the witness stand is union official Thomas Balanoff, who described some unusual calls he got on his cell phone the night before the 2008 presidential election.

Balanoff, Midwest head of the Services Employees International Union, was dining at Shaw’s Crab House in the River North neighborhood when his cell phone rang. The caller ID was blocked.

He didn’t answer but later went outside to listen to the message left by the caller. “Tom, this is Barack. Give me a call,” was the message from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who the next day would be elected president of the United States.

The Blagojevich defense contends that Balanoff was enlisted as an emissary for Obama, who was angling to send a message to Blagojevich that the soon-to-be president wanted his friend Valerie Jarrett to succeed him in the Senate.

Blagojevich is charged with trying to profit from his power to replace Obama, but the defense wants to show that Obama and his people were willing partners in the haggling over who would fill the seat.

Balanoff testified that Obama did reach out to him and suggested Jarrett would make a good senator. But Balanoff also made it clear that Obama wasn’t wild about the idea and wasn’t strongly invested in trying to make it happen.

Balanoff said he knew Blagojevich and Obama through his union activities. SEIU had been a strong supporter of both politicians.

Months before the election, Balanoff said he and Blagojevich had talked about who might succeed Obama should he win the presidency. At that time, Balanoff raised the name of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, but Blagojevich was dismissive and suggested state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who had replaced Obama in the Illinois Senate after Obama’s 2004 election to the U.S. Senate.

By the fall of 2008, Balanoff said the national head of his union, Andy Stern, was raising Jarrett as a contender for the Senate seat. Stern told Balanoff that he had spoken to Jarrett and she was interested.

On Nov. 3, the day before the election, Stern was in Chicago and he and Balanoff met Blagojevich, who agreed during the conversation that Jarrett would make a good choice.

Balanoff said Blagojevich also mentioned the possibility of appointing his nemesis, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, to the post as a tactical move to eliminate a possible re-election rival while also easing a roadblock to his legislative agenda by placating her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan. All in the room agreed that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. shouldn’t get the appointment because they didn’t think he could win election to a full term in 2010.

Balanoff said he later dined at Shaw’s when he got the cell phone message from Obama. On the way home, while pumping gas into his car, Balanoff said Obama called again. In the call, Balanoff said, Obama said there were many good candidates for his Senate job and that he wouldn’t be supporting anybody.

At the same time, Obama mentioned that Jarrett was interested but added that he preferred to have her work with him in the White House. On Election Day, Balanoff said he talked to Jarrett, who expressed her interest in the Senate seat.

Two days after the election, Balanoff said he had another meeting with Blagojevich and made it clear he was representing Obama in the Jarrett matter and that the governor would be making a wise political choice by naming her.

Blagojevich agreed, but then launched into a story about being in active discussions with the Madigans over the Senate seat, adding that he was willing to hold off on the appointment for months until Michael Madigan made good on passing the governor’s health care and building initiatives.

Then, Balanoff said, Blagojevich made overtures about swapping the Senate appointment for a cabinet appointment to be U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.

“He said, ‘I love being governor, but my real passion is health care and if I could be secretary of Health and Human Services I could pursue my passion,’” Balanoff said.

“I told him, ‘That’s not going to happen,’” Balanoff said.

"Is that because of all of the investigations.?” Balanoff quoted Blagojevich as asking.

“I asked, aren’t you worried? and he said no,” Balanoff continued.

--Bob Secter

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Just was reading this Obumer ==> Union Thug ==> Blago connection story in the Tribune.


This reader comment below it says it all.


The manner in which Illinois citizens continue to get jerked around by their elected officials continues to astound me. Whatever happened to "FOR the people, BY the people"?


We now have evidence of "Screw the people, I KNOW what's best for them". This is just disgusting to no end. It's bad enough when we elect the morons, because we have only ourselves to blame. But when morons are thrust upon us, we have a legitimate complaint. WTF!


Illinois is not only the nation's laughingstock, it is a cesspool of the ugliest filth known to mankind. Where do we go to sign up for the impeachment process? Jarrett as Senator.


Jesus, please return soon. I cannot take much more of this.


The politicians have totally ruined the state of Illinois and I fear, the country.

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Judge halts questioning on Obama

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Sheldon Sorosky, one of Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers, has been trying to drag President Barack Obama into the fray this afternoon, asking union official Tom Balanoff whether the FBI asked him about campaign money going to Obama.


Prosecutors objected, as they have so often during cross-examinations, and U.S. District Judge James Zagel said Sorosky should only ask in general what the FBI had said to Balanoff.


Sorosky tried the question again, using Zagel’s recommended wording. “I know that won’t be objected to,” Sorosky said, causing the nearby Blagojevich to laugh.


But Balanoff didn’t get to give an answer, and Zagel wouldn’t let the line of questioning go on after a private sidebar discussion among the lawyers.


Sorosky did get to ask about Balanoff’s labor group -- the Service Employees International Union -- supporting candidates for office. He asked whether the SEIU had supported “a young state senator” named Barack Obama as well as Blagojevich in his first run for governor in 2002.


“They cared about working people?” Sorosky asked. Balanoff said that was essentially right.


Sorosky had Balanoff go back to an early November 2008 meeting Balanoff had with Blagojevich. In the sit-down, Sorosky asked, didn’t Blagojevich mention appointing Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Obama, a move that would eliminate her as a rival in the 2010 race for governor?


“That’s what he said, yes,” Balanoff answered.


So there was a “logical, political reason for going the Madigan route?” Sorosky asked. Balanoff said in his view that was true.


Sorosky then walked Balanoff through his earlier testimony, when he had talked about going to Blagojevich to promote Valerie Jarrett after Obama called Balanoff and said Jarrett was his preference.


Balanoff insisted he was acting more on Jarrett’s behalf and less on Obama’s. At one point, Zagel chided Sorosky for asking questions that were too argumentative, suggesting that questions beginning with the word “so” should raise a red flag.


“So, maybe you can eliminate the so’s,” said Zagel, adding to his earlier ban on questions that start with "wouldn't you agree?"


Sorosky challenged Balanoff and asked whether Blagojevich ever explicitly offered to appoint Jarrett if Obama named the governor to a cabinet post. “I certainly believed that was what he was implying,” Balanoff said.

But Sorosky pressed for a yes or no answer.


“The governor did not say to you, ‘Tom, we’ve been friends for a long time. We’re all big boys. I’ll appoint Valerie Jarrett if the president appoints me?’” Sorosky said.


“No,” answered Balanoff.


--Jeff Coen

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NCTexan.My son was getting a haircut during the clinton vs bush campaign when CNN came in and were interviewing people. The were talking about the drip drip drip of scandals that were coming out about Clinton and wether or not it mattered. My son said that his #1 qualification for a president was character. CNN aired everyone's interview but his. Character used to matter with our politicians. A scandal ruined your career- I might say that was even true of Hollywood at one time.


Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. ~Abraham Lincoln

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Didn't we learn from the Sestak situation that merely holding these sorts of conversations with TPTB is illegal?


No wonder the judge is trying to steer and restrict the questioning...

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Didn't we learn from the Sestak situation that merely holding these sorts of conversations with TPTB is illegal?


No wonder the judge is trying to steer and restrict the questioning...


That is why I think this case is going to be dropped real soon.

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