Being Blago's Brother

"Fundraiser A" keeps it in the family

By Steve Rhodes
|  Sunday, Sep 13, 2009  |  Updated 11:45 AM CDT
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Being Blago's Brother

University of Tampa

The governor's brother told college graduates last spring that networking was the key to life.

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The brother of embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich may be a former military man with a record of accomplishment in the business world, but he's likely to forever be known in Illinois as "Fundraiser A" and the guy who agreed with the governor that he wasn't doing anything illegal "unless prospectively somebody gets you on a wire."

Spoken like a true Illinoisan, but it turns out that Robert R. Blagojevich lives in Nashville, where he is a real estate investor, the Tennessean reports today.

"Is he going to be charged? I have no idea," Robert Blagojevich's Chicago lawyer, Michael Ettinger tells the paper.

According to the Tennessean, Robert Blagojevich is a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves and a former platoon commander. During the 80s and 90s, he headed up the trust and investment companies of the First American Corp. bank, and is the former CEO of the Tampa-based Invest Financial Corp. He is a University of Tampa graduate (history, 1977) who was asked to give this year's commencement speech. (He also sits on the school's board of trustees.)

He did not mention in his speech that he had a brother who was a governor. He did talk about his father, though.

"He was born a peasant in a village with no running water or electricity. Growing up, he worked the fields with his family to grow corn and raise livestock. They eventually managed to enroll him in military school. Several years after he completed his schooling WWII broke out. He was captured by the Nazis, taken from his country, and thrown into a German prison camp in 1941. He was liberated four years later by Allied Forces at the end of the war. Alone at that time, he chose not to return to his homeland because it had fallen to Communism."

He eventually found his way to Chicago, "saved enough money to invest, so he bought machines, rented space and started his own business."

Robert Blagojevich used the story to tell graduates about the importance of networking.

"Networking should be a two-way street, though," he said. "In order to build a network of centers of influence, you should be willing to help someone yourself."

(The governor enrolled at the University of Tampa in 1975, but only stayed for about two years. "The University of Tampa was an odd college choice for a kid 'from the neighborhood,' as Blagojevich puts it, but his brother had gone there two years before to play baseball," Chicago magazine has reported. "With a lackluster grade point average and an 18 or 19 on his ACT, Blagojevich admits, 'schools like Northwestern, I couldn't get into.' After two years, Rod got into Northwestern as a transfer student and majored in history.")

According to a resume obtained by the Tennessean, Robert Blagojevich owns seven properties - six apartment complexes and one office park - in four states.

While he has not been a major campaign contributor himself, he assumed the post of campaign fundraising chairman for his brother in August and, as the Tennessean says, "The complaint puts the campaign chairman in the midst of multiple conversations that prosecutors allege show the governor was trying to sell public office to the highest bidder."

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