Blagojevich’s wife had her own scheme, affidavit says

St. Clair writes for the Chicago Tribune.

An unflattering portrait depicting Illinois first lady Patricia Blagojevich as a modern-day Lady Macbeth who plotted against her husband’s perceived enemies and backed his corrupt schemes emerged in court documents connected to the governor’s arrest.

Her alleged ambitions and brashness are outlined in a 76-page federal criminal complaint: She helped her husband hatch a plan to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. She angled to trade her husband’s power for lucrative spots on corporate boards. And she unleashed an obscenity-filled tirade suggesting Tribune Co. ownership should “just fire” Chicago Tribune editorial writers if the media company wanted the state to help it unload Wrigley Field to ease its crushing debt.

“Hold up that . . . Cubs” sale, she is quoted as saying in the background as her husband talked on the phone, authorities alleged.

Patricia Blagojevich, 43, has not been charged with wrongdoing.


The affidavit also alleges she participated in a two-hour conference call last month in which she, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his aides discussed selling Obama’s seat in exchange for her placement on paid corporate boards. Patricia Blagojevich suggested she would be qualified for such positions because she has a background in real estate and appraisals, and the governor said he hoped she would be able to pull in at least $150,000 annually to alleviate the family’s “financial stress,” according to the complaint.

When the governor debated appointing himself to the Senate seat, one of the arguments in favor was that it would be easier for his wife to become a lobbyist, authorities alleged.

Democratic Gov. Blagojevich, 52, was arrested at his Chicago home early Tuesday. He was released on his own recognizance after a court hearing, having posted a $4,500 bond.

Illinois’ first lady, who did not attend her husband’s bail hearing, is no stranger to rough-and-tumble politics. She grew up the eldest daughter of a longtime ward boss, Alderman Richard Mell, bearing witness to the ways of the Chicago Machine since grade school.

Patricia Blagojevich famously feuded with her father after Mell accused the governor of pay-to-play politics in 2005, though they briefly reconciled after her mother’s death two years ago. Despite their chilly relationship in recent years, Mell expressed concern for his daughter Tuesday -- but not for his son-in-law.

“It’s a terrible day, terrible,” he said. “My main concern right now is for my daughter and my grandchildren. That’s all I want to say right now.”

While championing social causes including literacy, children’s healthcare and public breast feeding, the first lady -- who has a degree in economics from the University of Illinois -- continued to work as a real estate agent until a federal investigation heated up.

Her once-lucrative career suffered after her most famous client, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, was convicted on political corruption charges in June. A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed she earned more than $700,000 in commissions on other deals after her husband began raising money in 2000 for his first gubernatorial campaign.


Of those commissions, the Tribune found that more than three-quarters came from clients with connections.

As her commissions faded, she briefly took a job as an investment banker. She touted her ability to land state business upon her hiring with a local banking house, but those deals never materialized and she soon left.

In September, she began working as a full-time fundraiser for the Chicago Christian Industrial League -- a job she obtained after a longtime political ally of the governor talked to the director of the nonprofit homeless agency.

A spokeswoman for the agency said Tuesday that Patricia Blagojevich still worked at the agency, and declined further comment. The first lady’s office also declined comment, referring inquiries to the governor’s office.