"Willburrrrrr! It sounds like that governerrrr is in a lottt of trubbbble!"
Mr. Ed could not have summed it up better.
He wasn't in court today. But Lon Monk, former chief of staff for Rod Blagojevich was. And as he pled guilty to new charges today, he promised in open court that he would testify about a little noticed, but very horsey problem which the former governor faces.
In his plea, Monk said that in December of 2008, he and Blagojevich were hatching a scheme with others, to squeeze political contributions from racetrack chief John Johnston. At the time, a key piece of legislation was awaiting Blagojevich's signature, which would have funneled millions of dollars in casino proceeds into Illinois' ailing horse racing industry. Monk had left his government post, and was acting as an intermediary, while he was actually working as a lobbyist for several horse racing tracks.
The price, reportedly, was $100,000. At one point, Monk says they actually rehearsed the conversation he was to have with Johnston in Blagojevich's fundraising office. Monk said he was to go to the racetrack executive and warn him to "stop screwin' around, get me the money," adding that the governor would continue holding back on signing the bill because he believed he wouldn't get the contribution if he signed the legislation first.
Monk may have been talking about horses. But in making his plea today, he promised to sing like a bird if the government calls him to testify against his former boss.
But it didn't stop there. Monk also said that even before Blagojevich was elected governor, he, Tony Rezko, fundraiser Chris Kelly, and Blagojevich met together and separately to plot how they could all make money from their control of state government. The plea says that Monk understood that he and Blagojevich were to "...use their power and authority in state government as needed to assist whatever plans Rezko and Kelly put in place to make money."
Later, at a separate hearing, Judge James Zagel laid to rest the possibility that Blagojevich would get to call President Obama as a star witness.
"The testimony of the president is not material to this case," Zagel said. He left open the possibility that he might revisit the issue if actually testimony during the trial warrants it.
But, as Mr. Ed would say, that would be a horse of a different color. The Obama testimony would concern the former governor's actions in naming a U.S. Senator. Blagojevich allegedly met with a union official about receiving benefits from the President, in exchange for nominating the White House choice to the Senate seat. The judge said whether or not that union official was actually representing the President was immaterial. That what mattered, was what Blagojevich believed at the time.
The trial is set to begin June 3.