Fast Eddie and Hot Rod

Maybe if we’d known this when he was running for governor, we wouldn’t have voted for him: Rod Blagojevich’s first job out of law school was with former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, leader of the bloc of white alderman who tried to stymie Mayor Harold Washington.

Reporter Abdon M. Pallasch, who was obviously taking notes while everyone else was nodding off through Blagojevich's life story, recounts the story in today’s Sun-Times, using Blagojevich’s testimony in his retrial.

Blagojevich, who is Serbian, figured he had an in with the Croatian alderman, because both had roots in Yugoslavia. So he asked Fast Eddie for a job in City Hall. Vrdolyak couldn’t do that, but when he found out Blagojevich spoke Serbo-Croatian, he gave the young man a job in his Southeast Side law office.

Blagojevich once joked that he “barely knew where the law library was” at Pepperdine University, and it took him two tries to pass the Illinois Bar. As a result, Vrdolyak used his rookie lawyer mainly as a gofer. Per Pallasch: 

At the firm, Blagojevich admitted to jurors, “I didn’t do a lot of law.”
He recalled that his assignments there included dropping off campaign literature in Hegewisch; getting election petitions signed for another Vrdolyak firm lawyer, Irwin Solganick, to run for judge; and picking up cheesecake from the well-known Lutz bakery for Vrdolyak’s driver.

Vrdolyak promised Blagojevich a job in the state’s attorney’s office, but never came through. Blagojevich was hired through the brother of an old school chum.

Vrdolyak and Blagojevich followed different paths after their early association -- but both ended up in the same place as convicts. Defeated by Washington in Council Wars, Vrdolyak left the Democratic Party and ran unsuccessfully for mayor and clerk of the circuit court as a Republican. Finished in Chicago politics, he began collecting large fees from the Town of Cicero for legal work. He is currently serving a 10-month sentence for real estate fraud in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Blagojevich married the daughter of a survivor of the anti-Washington bloc, Ald. Richard Mell, and began working his way up through the Democratic Party. While seeking the governorship, he didn’t list the job with Vrdolyak on his resume. It would have alienated black voters. Blagojevich is currently awaiting sentencing on federal corruption charges. If he’s sent to Terre Haute, he could be reunited with his first boss.

Ed Vrdolyak always could spot talent. 

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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