The Big Tuna

In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove examines the political land mines awaiting Barry now that he actually has to make decisions.

At the end of the column, he mentions a “thorny local controversy” that may turn out to be a political nuclear explosion:

…Should the new president replace U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted Mr. Obama’s fund-raising patron, Tony Rezko, and is investigating high-profile Democrats?…

The place to follow these “thorny” developments is John Kass’s Chicago Tribune column.

Here’s part of his November 16th column:

…Was I in Chicago, or in Rome before the fall?

“Not guilty,” said William Cellini, 74, in a whisper.

Cellini wore a nice blue suit. What he didn’t wear was a neon sign on his head pronouncing him the boss hog of the Republican half of the bipartisan Illinois Combine that runs this state with Chicago machine Democrats.

Bill Cellini doesn’t need a neon sign. Everybody who is somebody knows who he is. He’s said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Not bad for public service.

To fully appreciate our politics you’ve got to look at the connections. Sadly, this task is beyond the national press and some locals besotted with our renowned vintage, Combine Kool Aid.

…So as U.S. District Judge James Zagel accepted the not guilty plea, Cellini stood with his defense lawyer, Dan Webb.

“I had a glass of beer last night,” Cellini told Zagel, saying he had no problem following the court proceedings. The three talked as if they knew each other well. They do.

Cellini is accused of helping shake down a Hollywood producer and politically connected Chicago investor Thomas Rosenberg for $1.5 million in campaign cash for Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Cellini also is accused as a point man in a plot to remove U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald as federal prosecutor.

Watching Webb, Zagel and Cellini, there was nothing to tell you they go way back. The only guy missing was the bandleader, former Gov. Big Jim Thompson, Webb’s boss at Winston & Strawn. Thompson often gets miffed when I mention him, so I can almost hear him on the phone, growling, “Kass, I ain’t no bandleader.”

Cellini really began to pile up the cash when then-Gov. Thompson gave him a state gaming license. Webb and Zagel were young prosecutors under then-U.S. Atty. Thompson. Later, Zagel was director of the state’s Department of Revenue under Thompson. Webb ran the State Police.

Everybody knows somebody.

…Amazingly, Webb and Cellini are listed together on the board of directors of Lakeside Bank, run by the politically influential Cacciatore family.

One of the original Lakeside Bank investors is Fred Bruno Barbara, the Bridgeport trucking boss, waste management expert and close friend/fashionista of Mayor Richard Daley.

Barbara came up in testimony in the federal Family Secrets trial of mob bosses. A witness said Barbara, who was not charged, went along on fire-bombing runs with Chinatown crew chief Angelo “the Hook” LaPietra.

After court on Friday, I asked Webb about the bank.

“It’s not a conflict. I’m not on the bank board anymore,” Webb said. “I was on the board for a short period of time and resigned. If you’re asking me if Bill was on the board at the same time, I don’t remember that.”

But somebody forgot to tell Lakeside Bank. The bank has listed Webb and Cellini as board members in each of its annual reports since 2002. See? Even the connected can forget how they’re attached.

One of the few who isn’t connected to Cellini is the federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

The Combine wants Fitzgerald promoted out of town. But President-elect Barack Obama has promised newspaper editorial boards he would keep Fitzgerald in Chicago to fight political corruption.

That’s the same President-elect Obama with Mayor Daley’s guy Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, and another Daley guy, David Axelrod, as Obama’s chief strategist. The mayor’s brother Billy is one of Obama’s chief economic advisers. Whew!

Some political analysts become quite upset when “Daley machine” and “Obama” are mentioned in my column. They feel compelled to give me a vigorous corrective. But this same Flat Earth society denied the existence of a Combine for years, then shut up for a while when Obama’s real estate fairy Tony Rezko was convicted in the federal government’s Operation Board Games probe.

The case exposed the Combine in detail, illustrating how Republican and Democratic insiders stacked state pension boards to reap millions upon millions in pension investment fees. The Cellini case is fruit of Rezko’s tree.

It’s nice to be connected when things are going well, but since Fitzgerald arrived, things haven’t gone well. Some are sweating the Cellini indictment, like state Sen. James DeLeo (D-How You Doin?).

DeLeo has not been charged with anything. But the last thing he wants is his friend Cellini facing years in prison. Does Cellini have a good singing voice? Who knows?

I’m told Jimmy sees the feds everywhere these days, investigating his car leasing deals which allowed him to drive luxury Bentleys and Jaguars registered to his Springfield residence. That address just happened to be the home of Cellini’s sister and former state patronage boss Janis Cellini, where Jimmy lived for years while working in Springfield.

DeLeo’s name also came up in the Rezko trial. Cellini organized a Blagojevich fundraiser, but Cellini’s name was removed so that DeLeo and Rezko could get all the credit.

…It’s nice to be connected, but sometimes it’s not worth the federal aggravation.

This may be one of those times.

You may remember that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald took a break from his Chicago duties to prosecute Scooter Libby in the Valerie Wilson CIA leak case. Fitzgerald is like a prosecutorial Energizer Bunny: You get him started and he won’t stop until, like Sergeant Preston of the Royal Mounted Police, he gets his man.

Chicago is the perfect place for him. A veritable Pacific Ocean of corruption, Chicago provides a character like Fitzgerald with enough to occupy him for at least three life times.

But Fitzgerald was the absolutely wrong man for the CIA case since there was no crime committed and he knew who the “guilty” party was on the day he was appointed. Rather than close his operation down, Fitzgerald told Richard Armitage to keep quiet about his role in leaking Wilson’s name to Robert Novak and went off on a classic prosecutorial fishing expedition until he found a Republican whose story contradicted someone else’s story which he then presented to a jury of twelve Democrats.

Chicago, however, is awash in real crime and real criminals- the perfect place for a mad monk like Patrick Fitzgerald.

The question is: Will Fitzgerald be allowed to reel in the Big Tuna?

Speaking of Fitzgerald and the Valerie Wilson affair, Robert Novak is interviewed and shows why he’s the most honest political reporter there is.Propecia
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