Emanuel, Blagojevich Exchanged Phone Calls on School Grant
May 18, 2009 - 6:26 AM<br />
For four successive days in 2006, then-Rep. Emanuel called for Blagojevich, with one message noting it was about the Chicago Academy, according to thousands of pages of call logs reviewed by The Associated Press. Emanuel's chief of staff followed the next week with four more calls to a top Blagojevich aide.
The school grant is at the heart of an extortion allegation against Blagojevich, who was thrown out as Illinois governor in January and faces multiple federal corruption charges.
Prosecutors claim Blagojevich learned the congressman was inquiring about the school and hatched a scheme to squeeze Emanuel -- now President Barack Obama's chief of staff -- to get his Hollywood superagent brother to hold a fundraiser for him in exchange for releasing the school funds.
The school eventually got its money and no fundraiser was held. But Ari Emanuel shows up on the governor's call logs for the first time 2 1/2 weeks after the state issued the final payment to the school.
Through spokeswomen, both Emanuels declined to explain why they were calling the governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, during that time. Neither Emanuel has been accused of wrongdoing.
The indictment does not name the Emanuels, instead referring to "Congressman A" and his brother. A person familiar with details of the indictment, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is confidential, confirmed that they are Rahm and Ari Emanuel.
The indictment also does not say whether either Rahm or Ari Emanuel was ever pressured to raise money. It alleges only that Blagojevich told a lobbyist and a state official to talk to the congressman about a fundraiser, suggesting his brother host it.
Emanuel previously came under scrutiny in the case after Obama officials acknowledged he talked to Blagojevich about Obama's vacant seat, which federal officials claim Blagojevich was scheming to auction off. They determined his discussions were "totally appropriate and acceptable."
Harris is charged with one count of wire fraud and is cooperating with the investigation. Attorneys for Blagojevich and Harris did not return phone calls seeking comment. Blagojevich has repeatedly said he is innocent of all charges.
Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich never connected during a four-day flurry of phone calls beginning Aug. 29, 2006, according to the records. One message indicates Emanuel was calling about the Chicago Academy, whose grant was being administered by the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity at Blagojevich's direction.
Finally, Emanuel talked with Harris on Sept. 1.
That conversation was followed the next week by four calls to Harris from Emanuel's chief of staff, Elizabeth Smith, Harris' phone logs show.
The fourth, on Sept. 12, included the message, "The academy received the first check of $250,000 on Friday. What is the status of the past due amount of $150,000?"
There is no record of Harris returning any of Smith's calls, the last of which was Oct. 16. But state records show the academy got payments of $150,000 and $500,000 in September, $178,000 in October and the balance, $916,000, on Dec. 15.
The phone records show Blagojevich and Emanuel spoke on Nov. 30. On Dec. 20, five days after the last payment, the log has a note that the governor "wants to call Rahm."
Just weeks later, Ari Emanuel, a powerful agent who is the basis for Jeremy Piven's character on the HBO show "Entourage," first shows up in the governor's call log. The messages don't show the reason behind them.
On Jan. 3, 2007, Blagojevich's log reads, "Ari Emanuel called and would like to speak to you. Endeavor Talent Agency."
The two exchanged messages until speaking Jan. 19, when the log indicates, "Governor and Ari Emanuel spoke. Rod had John also call Ari."
That's an apparent reference to Harris, whose own log shows Ari Emanuel called him on Jan. 30 with the message, "Following up."
Harris returned the call and left a message, and Ari Emanuel disappears from the log until June 19, 2007, when a call to Harris carries the note, "You'll know what it is in regard to, he is Rahm's brother." Ari Emanuel called Harris again a year later regarding state legislation, according to Harris' list.
Ari Emanuel, who has given $270,000 to federal candidates since 2000, shows up just once in state records: a $2,500 donation to Blagojevich in August 2002.
Despite their long relationship, Rahm Emanuel appears on the governor's phone log only once before Sept. 5, 2005, days after Emanuel publicly announced the Chicago Academy grant. Blagojevich represented the same congressional district as Emanuel before becoming governor.
The pair spoke in February 2006 and again in May, the last time before the late-summer flurry of phone calls.
After that, there are more than a dozen contacts between the congressman and the governor on the logs from November 2006 through as late as Nov. 7, 2008, three days after Obama's election.
The log shows Blagojevich spoke to Emanuel on Nov. 6, 2008. A day later, there was a message that Emanuel had called and requested a meeting with Blagojevich for the following day.
FBI agents arrested Blagojevich on Dec. 9 of last year, alleging he was trying to trade on his power to name a Senate replacement for Obama.
A report issued just before Christmas indicated Emanuel had "one or two telephone calls" with the governor after the election and four with Harris.
At the time, a White House attorney said Emanuel had discussed a Senate replacement but that the conversations were "totally appropriate and acceptable."
Associated Press writer Mike Robinson contributed to this report.
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