“Millionaire attorney Stuart Levine testified Wednesday that he curried favor with political big shots by chartering planes to ferry Gov. Rod Blagojevich to visit campaign donors and fundraiser Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko to a Christmas dinner at the White House,” NBC5 reports.
Christmas dinner at the White House is nice, but there’s another meal that I’m sure interests investigators more.
“And [Levine] said he once ferried Rezko’s family and a Rezko family friend back from a vacation in Mexico on a plane Levine partially owned. He said Rezko had to leave Mexico early to prepare for a dinner he was holding for Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi.”
I reported on another of these flights in for Chicago magazine in this story in 2005:
“The burgeoning relationships between Levine, [Chicago fundraiser Joe] Cari, [former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl] McCall, and the Blagojevich administration grew cozier in late 2003, when Levine paid more than $4,000 to fly the governor and some of his campaign operatives to fund-raising visits to Austin, Texas, and New York City, according to campaign reports and other sources. McCall hosted one fundraising event held in an exclusive New York club, and [Cari’s] HealthPoint paid for $3,500 in meals at another funder in the city the next day.”
Former state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka called what I believe is this same trip the “Shakedown Shuttle” during her 2006 campaign against Blagojevich.
Cari has told federal investigators that the governor offered him political favors in return for campaign contributions; the governor has denied the charge. And the governor is not on trial here. But he might as well be.