Friday, April 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Blagojevich's wife makes a *%?#$&!# splash, too

Patti Blagojevich , in May, was not charged.
Patti Blagojevich , in May, was not charged. NANCY STONE / Chicago Tribune, File
CHICAGO - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has some close company in his misery.

His arrest this week on corruption charges also shone a spotlight on Patti Blagojevich, his wife and a mother of two. She may have been introduced to the public by profanity-laced tirades as outlined by federal prosecutors, but she already was being investigated for her real estate dealings.

Federal prosecutors Tuesday laid out their allegations of a brazen money grab by the governor, saying he plotted to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. And in the criminal complaint against him, his 43-year-old wife emerged as a woman who schemed to cash in on her husband's job and punish those who got in her way.

She has not been charged with any wrongdoing, and she has not spoken publicly since her husband's arrest. Nor did she appear in court with him Tuesday. She did not return calls seeking comment.

According to the complaint, she was the voice in the background spewing an ugly suggestion to "just fire" some newspaper editors if the Tribune Co. hoped for state assistance to sell Wrigley Field, the storied home of the Chicago Cubs.

"Hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive]," she says as her husband is talking on the phone. "[Expletive] them."

There she was in full support, according to the complaint, of her husband's suggestion that the price of the governor naming a replacement for Obama's Senate seat include a six-figure seat on a corporate board.

In Illinois, those allegations mark the latest chapter in what may be considered a quintessential Chicago story. Patti Blagojevich is both a businesswoman whose lucrative real estate deals have raised questions about whether her position as first lady helped her make a lot of money, and a key player in a family drama between two powerful politicians - her husband and her father, Richard Mell.

Mell was a powerful Chicago alderman who held a fund-raiser in the late 1980s. Hoping to drum up business for his practice, Rod Blagojevich, then a young lawyer, attended and met Patti Mell. The two married in 1990.

Two years later, Richard Mell used his political connections to get 200 soldiers with the Army's Third Infantry Division to campaign for his son-in-law.

Blagojevich ended up beating a powerful incumbent to win the state representative post, setting in motion a career that would take him to Congress and in 2002 to the governor's mansion.

Patti Blagojevich appeared to know her priorities and would not let working at her real estate brokerage firm interfere with raising the couple's two small daughters.

In a 2005 profile article, she told the Chicago Tribune: "What I put my focus on mostly is the girls. Once you put your focus there, the rest falls into place."

But even before that story ran, she was in the middle of a public feud between her husband and her father that largely stemmed from the governor's shutting down a landfill run by a distant relative of her mother.

Mell was incensed, saying his son-in-law was willing to "throw anyone under the bus."

He also told reporters that his daughter had "blinders on" when it came to the governor and that she would "wake up one day" to see what her husband was really like.

There were whispers that Mell was not allowed to see the family as much as he liked, something Mell seemed to give credence to with a tearful announcement that he wanted to end his battle with Blagojevich.

Until Tuesday, the most recent news stories about Patti Blagojevich have been those that raised questions about her business dealings. In 2005, for example, a published report said she received nearly $50,000 from a real estate deal three years earlier involving Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

In June, Rezko was convicted of using clout with the Blagojevich administration to help launch a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.

 

Don Babwin Associated Press
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