As we mentioned last week when Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias' name was first mentioned at the ongoing trial of disgraced former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, where there's smoke, there's fire.
Well, it's now been a couple days, and there is no fire yet, but with the news that Alexi has now been subpoenaed by the defense in the Blago case, there is going to be a lot more scrutiny over exactly what was Alexi's involvement in Blago's scheme to sell or otherwise personally profit by Blago's ability to name a replacement to then-Senator Obama's seat, if and when Obama was elected president. It appears that Alexi was more involved in trying to get Obama friend Valerie Jarrett appointed to the spot than perhaps Alexi previously wanted to let on, including brokering and then attending a meeting between SEIU president Tom Balanoff and Jarrett.
I think we've definitely gone from a wisp of smoke to a healthy smolder. We'll see just exactly what happens next, but the Kirk for Senate campaign has a lot of questions it hopes reporters start asking about just how deep Alexi was in the middle of all of this.
By the way, Team Alexi and his supporters in the media are already trying to spin this as Alexi being a 'victim' of the crazy former guv, who is trying to ensnare everyone on the planet as a bit player in his trial. But it seems pretty clear from what we're learning now that Alexi is the one who reached out to Blago, so this line of how 'Alexi and Blago were never close' kind of misses the point as far as I can see. Blago had the power to make a hugely important U.S. Senate appointment, and Alexi chose to involve himself in Blago's decision -- whether on his own initiative or Obama's, it doesn't really matter. The current issue, is how deep Alexi's involvement went, and if Alexi has been entirely candid about the extent of his involvement in this mess up to now, all of which now remains to be seen.
IMHO, Alexi's playing a dangerous game by being coy with the media. They just spent the last month beating up on Congressman Kirk, and the fickle pendulum of the MSM would like nothing better than to swing back so that all the reporters can prove they are equal-opportunity-beater-uppers. Woe be to Alexi if the media decides that he's been less than forthcoming on any of the details of this intriguing development...
From the Kirk for Senate campaign:
Kirk Campaign Statement Regarding Giannoulias Subpoena in Blagojevich Corruption Trial
Statement by Kirk Spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski:
“Today's news developments further emphasize the troubling pattern that has emerged concerning Alexi Giannoulias. As state treasurer, Giannoulias lost more than $70 million in Bright Start college savings funds and his family's bank cost the FDIC nearly $400 million in losses. Now we've learned Giannoulias' name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich's public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer.”
Key Questions for Alexi Giannoulias
-->1. When did Alexi Giannoulias receive his subpoena notice?
-->2. What did Alexi hear and say during the meeting he brokered between Tom Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett?
-->3. Alexi Giannoulias claims Tom Balanoff “reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie; he did not know how to get ahold of her.” Why would Tom Balanoff need Alexi Giannoulias to reach Valerie Jarrett if Balanoff had a direct line to the President-elect?
-->4. What day did Tom Balanoff call Alexi Giannoulias?
-->5. What day did Alexi Giannoulias, Tom Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett hold a meeting?
-->6. Does Tom Balanoff agree with Alexi Giannoulias’ version of events?
-->7. Why did Alexi Giannoulias previously claim that the Blagojevich staff reached out to him regarding his possible appointment to the U.S. Senate seat when in fact he had called John Harris and brokered a meeting between Tom Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett?
-->8. Why did Alexi Giannoulias make no mention of his subpoena or his meeting with Balanoff when reporters first asked him about a wiretap conversation in which Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris tells Rod Blagojevich that Giannoulias had called?
A Timeline of Inconsistencies
November 7, 2008: A federal wiretap records the following conversation between Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris – this is never brought to public light until the Blagojevich trial last week:
Harris: “So, Alexi called me. Wants to meet with me a few minutes this afternoon. He says it's...I said what's it about? He says the seat but not for me, for someone else.” (Source: Session 374, 10:46 AM)
December 4, 2008: Alexi Giannoulias tells the Chicago Tribune that Rod Blagojevich’s staff “reached out” to him about the Senate seat.
“Giannoulias also said that staff within Blagojevich's office have "reached out" to him as a possible candidate to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, though a Blagojevich spokesman said the governor has not contacted Giannoulias directly.” (Chicago Tribune, “Giannoulias mulls governor run, Senate seat,” 12/4/2008)
December 9, 2008: Blagojevich and Harris are arrested:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois' top office. (Chicago Tribune, “Blagojevich arrested on federal charges,” 12/9/2008)
December 12, 2008: Alexi Giannoulias claims he hadn’t thought about the Senate seat until after Rod Blagojevich was arrested:
"I haven't really thought about it to be honest with you," he said during an appearance at Aurora University. "I've been focused on trying to do my job and trying to rebuild the public's trust in us as elected officials.“ (Daily Herald, “Giannoulias 'too busy' to think about vacant Senate seat,” 12/12/2008)
December 18, 2008: Alexi Giannoulias avoids CNBC question about being contacted by Blagojevich and says he was never in serious contention for the Senate seat:
Host: Is it true, there are reports out there that his office reached out to your office to see if you’d be interested in Obama’s Seante seat. They didn’t hit you up to see what you’d be willing to give for that?
Alexi: I don’t think I was ever seriously in contention for that seat.
(Source: CNBC Interview, 12/18/2008)
March 3, 2009: Alexi Giannoulias’ spokesman claims Giannoulias began looking at the Senate seat following Rod Blagojevich’s arrest:
“Giannoulias’ spokesman Scott Burnham said Giannoulias was interested in the seat when it became vacant and began to look at it more closely following the arrest of Rod Blagojevich in December.” (Daily Herald, “Ill. treasurer exploring run for U.S. Senate,” 3/3/2009)
June 24, 2010: Giannoulias campaign spokesperson matter-of-factly admits for the first time that Giannoulias called John Harris to advocate for Valerie Jarrett:
"Alexi did not call Harris at the behest of President Obama," she said. "Alexi thinks very highly of Valerie Jarrett, and it was well known that he thought she would make a terrific senator. So naturally, he was an advocate for her appointment." (Washington Post, The Fix, 6/24/2010)
June 24, 2010: The Giannoulias campaign refuses to tell reporters whether Alexi Giannoulias made any other calls or contacts with the Blagojevich team regarding the U.S. Senate seat:
The campaign is bit hazy about whether other calls were made, saying only that, "It was no secret he thought highly of Valerie and talked to people about it." (Crain’s Chicago Business, 6/24/2010)
June 27, 2010: Alexi Giannoulias reveals for the first time that he brokered a meeting between SEIU Illinois President Tom Balanoff and Valerie Jarrett to discuss the Senate seat:
"Tom Balanoff reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie because he didn't know how to get a hold of her, and I put the two of them together," Giannoulias said. He said he also attended an informal meeting between Jarrett and Balanoff sometime after Obama's election but "didn't really participate in it." (Associated Press, 6/27/2010)
After the election, Giannoulias told me he "reached out to Harris to give him my thoughts and at a certain point, Tom Balanoff reached out to me to get in touch with Valerie; he did not know how to get ahold of her. I put the two together in the meeting." (Chicago Sun-Times, 6/27/2010)