Operation Board Games, a widening, five-year probe of pay-to-play corruption in Illinois state government, culminated on Dec. 9 with the arrests of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and John Harris, his chief of staff, for conspiring to commit fraud and soliciting bribes. Among other things, Blagojevich sought contributions from an unnamed local concrete firm executive and active member of Skokie-Ill.-based American Concrete Pavement Association in exchange for contracts under a $1.8-billion program to upgrade the state’s toll roads, U.S. attorneys say. If the funds were raised to his liking by the end of the year, the governor would have increased the program’s cost, but “if [donors] don’t perform, [expletive] ’em,” he allegedly told an associate. Blagojevich also reportedly talked with the president of a local engineering firm about money it had raised in exchange for his public support of a state capital bill. Convictions under the probe include former political fund-raiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko and state health-care board member Stuart Levine, who sought millions of dollars in kickbacks, including $1 million from a contractor hired to build a state hospital.
Illinois Governor Arrested Under Federal Conspiracy Charges
December 10, 2008