CHICAGO -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Rep. Rahm Emanuel are admitted friends, but the two only spoke once about the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, says a new report out Sunday.
The Obama transition team is expected to release an internal report on the contacts between Obama's aides and the governor, who is facing charges of trying to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Obama is not accused of any wrongdoing -- in fact, Blagojevich is allegedly heard on tape cursing out Obama for refusing to play ball.
On Sunday, ABC reported that Emanuel -- who succeeded Blagojevich in the House and served as a campaign adviser of the governor -- spoke with him just once about the seat and four times to former Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris, who was also arrested a week and a half ago on corruption charges.
ABC also reported that the conversation made only passing reference to the Senate vacancy and no deal was made.
An Obama spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the report to FOX News. The release of the report was delayed after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald asked the camp to push it back a week so as not to interfere with the investigation.
While the transition team promised to reveal who talked to the governor and what was said, the release of the information during Christmas week is no doubt welcome since it may mean it will be quietly forgotten.
According to an Associated Press report, Emanuel made contact with the governor's office about the appointment and left Blagojevich with the impression that he was pushing Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, so he wouldn't have to compete with her in the White House for Obama's attention, said a person close to Blagojevich. The person was not authorized to talk about the governor's discussions regarding the vacancy and requested anonymity.
It was not clear whether Blagojevich inferred Emanuel's motive for advocating Jarrett, or whether Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich directly or with John Harris, the governor's then-chief of staff who also is charged in the case, according to the source who spoke to The AP.
Emanuel's refusal to discuss the matter publicly, and the few comments offered by Obama to date, have prompted questions about Emanuel's ties to Blagojevich and what fallout he'll face as the criminal case unfolds, although sources have said he is not a target of prosecutors. Even so, any hint of scandal for Emanuel threatens to tarnish Obama's promise of new political leadership free of scandal and corruption.
Prosecutors refer in the 76-page complaint to the governor's discussions on FBI tapes about a "president-elect advisor," believed to be Emanuel, but they do not specifically cite contacts with Emanuel or anyone on Obama's transition staff.
Instead, the taped conversations reveal Blagojevich telling others to float his idea by the president's adviser of forming a nonprofit that he hoped would, with Obama's help, receive millions of dollars that the governor could tap later.
Blagojevich said he didn't want the idea associated directly in conversations about the Senate appointment or filling Emanuel's seat in the House, according to the complaint. However, Blagojevich is quoted as saying "I want it to be in his head" for later discussions about Emanuel's successor.
It was Blagojevich who, seemingly out of nowhere, yanked Emanuel into his scandal when answering reporters' questions the day before his Dec. 9 arrest, invoking his name in an apparent attempt to shrug off any perception of wrongdoing.
He said he wasn't concerned about a report in the Chicago Tribune that confidant and former aide John Wyma's cooperation had helped lead federal prosecutors to tape the governor's conversations.
Big deal, Blagojevich said. He said he's "always lawful" whenever he speaks, and he was confident Wyma has been "an honest person who's conducted himself in an honest way. That's the John Wyma I know and it's the John Wyma that Rahm Emanuel knows and a lot of other people know."
Blagojevich is right. Wyma does have ties to both him and Emanuel, those close to both have said. And Wyma's clients contributed to both - more than $100,000 to Emanuel's campaigns and causes, and more than $445,000 to Blagojevich's, according to campaign finance records reviewed by The Associated Press.
Wyma and his attorney, Zachary Fardon, did not respond to interview requests.
Emanuel's defenders say he is hardly an ally of Blagojevich.
"They were in different worlds personally and politically," said Peter Giangreco, a political consultant on Blagojevich's 1996 congressional campaign and his two gubernatorial races. "They only dealt with each other because they occupied the same political geography."
Emanuel's effort to promote Jarrett or anyone else for Obama's vacant Senate seat was more a part of his new job description and less a reflection of close ties, Emanuel's supporters have said.
Blagojevich and Emanuel at times joined forces politically, like in 2005 to promote importing prescription drugs from Canada and in 2006 to push for an increase in the state's minimum wage. Blagojevich, his aides say, wasn't shy about seeking the help of Emanuel, referred to in a 2006 Tribune article as his "Washington-based mentor."
Blagojevich was a congressman before he was governor and he represented the Fifth District, a small but heavily populated district in Chicago's northern and western suburbs, not far from O'Hare International Airport. His rise to Congress has been well documented of late, including the help he received from powerful Chicago Alderman Dick Mell - his now-estranged father-in-law.
When Emanuel returned to politics in 2002 after some years spent in investment banking, he targeted Blagojevich's Fifth District seat as he launched his reformist campaign for governor.
Due to his personal wealth and his national fundraising base dating to his work in the Clinton administration, Emanuel didn't have to go to Mell or to powerful unions because he already had acquired political clout.
Nancy Kaszak, who ran for Congress against Blagojevich in 1996 when both were state representatives and had a nasty battle against Emanuel in 2002, said she believes Mell quietly backed Emanuel. On Election Day that year, she recalls, Mell's poll workers passed out literature for both Blagojevich and Emanuel. Mell declined to be interviewed for this story.
Emanuel has described himself as a one-time adviser to Blagojevich. David Wilhelm, one of Emanuel's close friends who worked with him in the Clinton White House, informally assisted on that campaign for Blagojevich.
Emanuel, who has declined to comment since Blagojevich's arrest, told The New Yorker magazine over the summer that he, Wilhelm and Obama met once a week during the 2002 race to plot campaign strategy for Blagojevich. Wilhelm has said Emanuel overstated the group's role.
Also, Emanuel, Blagojevich and Obama all have hired David Axelrod, the Chicago political consultant who helped engineer Obama's presidential victory. Axelrod helped Blagojevich in 1996 and Emanuel in 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.