Monday, May 4, 2009

Blago Pardoned Tax Cheat After Campaign Contributions

Anan Abu-Taleb can thank ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the fact that he's no longer viewed by the State of Illinois as a tax cheat.

In a little-noticed move in December 2006, Blagojevich pardoned the successful Oak Park restaurateur for an old tax-fraud conviction. And the now-impeached governor took the additional step of forever wiping that blemish from Abu-Taleb's record.

Rod Blagojevich (left), as governor in 2006, not only pardoned Anan Abu-Taleb -- whose cousin's law firm was a contributor -- he wiped the record clean.

While Abu-Taleb successfully maneuvered through the state's byzantine clemency process, as many as 20 others who were exonerated of crimes failed to persuade Blagojevich to clear their records.

Something else sets Abu-Taleb apart from those others: the campaign contributions that rolled in to Blagojevich from a powerful Chicago law firm run, in part, by an Abu-Taleb relative who was a character witness in the clemency case.

Between 2002 and 2007, the law firm of Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw gave Blagojevich more than $207,000 -- including $25,000 in 2006, the year Blagojevich granted Abu-Taleb clemency. John Gearen -- Abu-Taleb's cousin by marriage -- is a longtime partner at the firm.

Rieck & Crotty, which represented Abu-Taleb, gave a total of $23,541 more to Blagojevich, though that was in 2001 and 2002, before the firm took on the clemency case.

Attorney James Montana, who also represented Abu-Taleb, says the campaign contributions played no role in Abu-Taleb's "appropriately granted" clemency bid, noting his client never personally gave to Blagojevich and that it took two years for the ex-governor to act after the pardon case was first presented.
Blago's hair alone must have cost 200,000 a year in up keep !

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