William Cellini, one of Springfield’s most enduring slimeballs, is finally about to get his day in federal court. According to the Springfield State Journal-Register:
The government has charged Cellini with conspiring to commit extortion with [Tony] Rezko, [Chris] Kelly and ex-TRS board member and Cellini ally Stuart Levine. Prosecutors said the four men conspired in the spring of 2004 to withhold $220 million in Teachers' Retirement System investment funds from a firm named Capri Capital unless Thomas Rosenberg, a principal in the firm, made a $1.5 million campaign contribution to Blagojevich or paid a $2 million fee to Rezko, Kelly and Levine.
Cellini, who had so much influence over the Teachers’ Retirement System he was called its “pope,” also steered pension money to his real estate firm, Commonwealth Realty.
We recently had a similar situation in Chicago, when former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew lost $1 million in pension money on a bad real estate deal.
I have a modest proposal: why don’t the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago stop giving pension money to private funds, and hire their own investment advisors instead?
All those billions of dollars lying around in retirement funds have become a political prize, handed out to relatives and big campaign contributors. No business in Illinois has as many employees, or as much to invest, as government. Why do you think money managers were the principal fundraisers for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s inaugural gala? They’re all trying to get a piece of the city’s pension money.
Could the state find competent stock-pickers to work for a mere six-figure government salary? It should try, because the way pension funds are distributed now is only adding to Illinois’s long history of corruption.
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