Internal documents from ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign reveal that there was a plan to ask billionaire Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell for a $25,000 contribution days before the governor was arrested on corruption charges that include alleged strong-arming of the company, according to a published report.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that it had obtained internal campaign documents, including a Nov. 25, 2008, "Focus List" in which Zell and 32 other people are identified as potential donors.
The documents also suggest the plan to solicit the donation included Blagojevich reaching out to Zell.
"Rod to follow up," reads one notation on the Nov. 25 document, and on a Sept. 22, 2008, fundraising document titled "Call List," an entry reads: "Sam Party on 9.27."
Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune, Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs _ all of which have been key components in the case against Blagojevich. While Blagojevich's alleged effort to sell the vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder received far more national press coverage, another charge is tied to the potential sale of Wrigley.
Blagojevich, who was arrested in December and has since been impeached and removed from office, allegedly threatened to withhold state assistance in the Wrigley sale in an attempt to force the Chicago Tribune into firing editorial writers who had criticized him. On Thursday, the Tribune reported that federal prosecutors interviewed Zell in January as a potential witness in their criminal investigation of Blagojevich.
Zell's spokeswoman said Zell did not give any money to Blagojevich last year or promise to do so. And attorneys for the former governor and his brother, Robert, who headed his campaign fund, told the Sun-Times they did not solicit any money from Zell at the time.
The Sun-Times also reports that in another campaign document dated Dec. 3, 2008, one of the 143 names of potential donors for fundraising events is that of Marc Ganis _ a sports consultant hired by Tribune Co. to help with the sale of Wrigley.
Next to his name are notations, including one that reads: "Rod went to dinner on 9/19. Rod needs to follow up."
The dinner date also appears on Blagojevich's call log obtained by The Associated Press, a document that indicates Blagojevich did call Ganis and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney on Sept. 26.
On Monday, the AP reported that in November, Ganis e-mailed Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, saying that President Barack Obama's election put "the opportunities we discussed" in front of Blagojevich.
"There is a real possibility these next two years could be very different than the last two for you guys," Ganis wrote in one of two dozen e-mails exchanged between Ganis and Harris obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act. "An opportunity that this election may have presented."
Ganis told the AP that the message concerned the chance for Blagojevich to improve strained relations with the Illinois Legislature.
Blagojevich and Harris are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit fraud and solicitation of bribery. Both deny the charges.
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index
Associated Press Writer John O'Connor contributed to this report from Springfield.
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