Published December 09, 2008
Illinois first lady Patricia Blagojevich's official Web site says she's "committed to spreading the governor's message."
The first lady was not arrested Tuesday, but federal prosecutors nevertheless allege that she was engaged in the governor's attempts to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder and to intimidate The Chicago Tribune. The court document mentions the first lady, though not by name, 19 times in six graphic sections.
Much of the information authorities collected came from bugs in the governor's campaign office and his home phone, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said at a press conference Tuesday. The prosecutor said Mrs. Blagojevich was referenced in the complaint, but he would not describe her involvement further.
"I'm not going to comment on anyone not charged," Fitzgerald said.
According to the complaint, in one profanity-laced account, Patricia Blagojevich was allegedly heard in the background of a call between her husband and someone identified as "Deputy Governor A" advising the governor on how to handle The Chicago Tribune, which had published an editorial critical of the governor.
"F--- them," Patricia Blagojevich is quoted as saying, according to the document. In an apparent reference to the Tribune Company's attempts to sell Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs, she urges the two engaged in the phone call to "hold up that f---ing Cubs s---."
The complaint also says Mrs. Blagojevich then got on the phone and said the Tribune owner could "just fire" the editorial's writers. Gov. Blagojevich then got back on the phone and adopted that same position, the affidavit claims.
The complaint alleges that the governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, threatened to withhold financial assistance to the Tribune Company, which declared bankruptcy Monday, in connection with the sale of the Cubs and the storied ballpark in which they play.
Blagojevich is responsible for appointing Obama's successor to fill out the remaining two years on the president-elect's Senate term. The document claims that the governor conspired to trade Obama's Senate seat in exchange for his wife's placement on paid corporate boards or some other compensation.
The FBI complaint repeatedly mentions Blagojevich's attempts to win a plum assignment for his wife. On one Nov. 8, 2008, phone call, he discussed the possibility of getting his wife a high-paying job at a Washington or New York firm, or with a union.
On a Nov. 10 call, both Rod and Patricia Blagojevich -- in a two-hour phone call with Harris and other advisers -- allegedly discussed what they could obtain in exchange for appointing certain candidates to Obama's seat. The first lady allegedly suggested that she is qualified to sit on corporate boards. The governor discussed on a phone call later in the day whether Obama could get his wife a job on a corporate board immediately, according to the document.
Patricia Blagojevich has a personal history of friction with The Chicago Tribune. The newspaper has published a series of critical articles on her real estate dealings with politically connected clients.
In an Oct. 19 article, the Tribune reported that since Rod Blagojevich began raising money in 2000 for his first run for governor, the first lady's home-based River Realty, Inc. earned more than $700,000 in commissions -- and that "more than three-quarters came from clients with connections."
One such deal, reported on last year, involved the $650,000 sale of a condo from a businessman who later won $10 million in no-bid state contracts.
The Tribune reported that the first lady earned a likely commission of between $26,000 and $39,000 in the sale.
The newspaper also reported that Mrs. Blagojevich also had a long business relationship with Antonin "Tony" Rezko, the Chicago developer and former Obama fundraiser who was convicted on fraud charges earlier this year. The Blagojeviches reportedly refuse to disclose how much the real estate company made off Rezko.
The governor and his supporters have called the reports "Neanderthal" and "sexist."
Asked if anyone else would be charged in connection with this case, FBI spokesman Frank Bochte told FOX News, "This investigation certainly is not over. It's ongoing."
Patricia Blagojevich is a licensed real estate broker and appraiser, and has an economics degree from the University of Illinois. As Illinois' first lady, she championed early childhood literacy as well as health care programs to children.