Who is Fred Lebed and why should you care?
Fred Lebed is a longtime business partner of Roland Burris, and the spotlight seems to be shifting in his direction as the senatorial saga drags on.
The Sun-Timesreports today that Lebed hired clouty Ald. Dick Mell - the father-in-law of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich - to work on the U.S. Senate campaign of Blair Hull, who was torpedoed in the waning days by controversial divorce documents that opened the way for Barack Obama to win the seat.
Why is that important?
Because, according to what a source told the Sun-Times, federal authorities are investigating the arrangement. Lebed refused to tell the paper if he had turned over documents about payments to Mell to the authorities.
But if Lebed is being squeezed, he might have more to say about Burris than Mell.
The Sun-Timesreported on Friday that "On the same December day then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Roland Burris to fill President Obama's U.S. Senate vacancy, Burris' right-hand political man, Fred Lebed, phoned an associate and told him, 'We'll have to do some things for the governor.'
"That's the recollection of the associate, a health-care and political consultant named John Ruff, who went on to become one of Burris' co-plaintiffs on a January lawsuit that sought to help Burris claim his Senate seat."
Lebed says that Ruff is "lying through his teeth."
But Lebed has split with Burris, according to gossip columnist Michael Sneed.
Burris and Lebed, after a long association that included Lebed at times acting as Burris's campaign manager, set up shop together in 2002. At the time, Burris said his political career was over.
Their new firm did well, according to the Tribune, receiving "about $290,000 in state contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation a few years ago, according to state comptroller records. And many companies that hired Burris' firm have received hundreds of thousands in state business."
Carol Felsenthal noted on Huffington Post that the Burris & Lebed Consulting website "notes that both are registered lobbyists and that "their vast network of relationships are unmatched and stretch within every corner of Illinois and many of the major metropolitan areas in the country.
"The website also boasts: 'Burris & Lebed Consulting represents numerous clients in front of the Chicago City Council, Cook County Board of Commissioners, suburban local governments, other governmental units across Illinois, Illinois General Assembly, the Governor's Office and other local elected and appointed officials'. "
And the kicker: Lebed was on the board of the Chicago Christian Industrial League when it hired Patti Blagojevich as a fundraiser.
Lebed may have severed his relationship with Burris, but at least in the minds of federal authorities, that certainly doesn't put an end to it.