CHICAGO

Blagojevich Aide, Cubs Consultant Discussed 'Opportunities'

04/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A sports consultant helping Tribune Co. with a potential Wrigley Field sale wrote an e-mail to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top aide that said the results of the presidential election had put "the opportunities we discussed" in front of Blagojevich, the Associated Press has learned.

Marc Ganis' e-mail to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris on Nov. 6 came as federal prosecutors were closing in on the governor. Blagojevich was later arrested, impeached and thrown out of office on allegations that include trying to get unfriendly Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired in return for helping the newspaper's parent company get a tax benefit on the sale of the iconic ballpark.

Tribune Co. has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"Now that the election has gone as we expected, the opportunities we discussed, and Rod and I talked even more about, are in front of you guys," Ganis wrote in one of two dozen e-mail exchanges between Ganis and Harris obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act.

"I was going to call the Gov today to get together to continue the discussion you had us start. ... There is a real possibility these next two years could be very different than the last two for you guys. An opportunity that this election may have presented."

Ganis said Monday that the postelection missive was about the chance for Blagojevich to improve relations with the Illinois General Assembly. He said he was talking to Blagojevich and Harris about the opportunity to have President Barack Obama or his staff mediate Blagojevich's longstanding differences with legislators.

The governor's feud with fellow Democrat and House Speaker Michael Madigan had immobilized the Capitol for several years.

Blagojevich and Harris were arrested in their homes Dec. 9 on a federal complaint that alleges they tried to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat Obama vacated and get the Tribune editorial writers fired in exchange for taxpayer assistance in the Wrigley Field deal.

Both deny the charges. Ganis has not been charged with wrongdoing and said he was unaware of any alleged scheme.

A Cubs spokesman said Ganis works for Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs and Wrigley, and referred questions there. A Tribune spokesman declined to comment. Harris' attorney, Terry Ekl of Lisle, also declined to comment.

Ganis told the AP in January that his contact with Blagojevich's office was limited to discussions about the Cubs.

But the e-mails show the north siders weren't the only topic. Ganis, president of Sportscorp Ltd. in Chicago, wanted to help make "Rod's voice" heard on an Olympics committee and sought a meeting with Harris to pitch a business proposition.

He said Monday that there was no conflict between his Cubs work and advising Blagojevich and Harris, whom he said sought a "different voice."

"I'm a nonpolitical voice that is hopefully fairly well-read on this stuff with absolutely no ax to grind and absolutely no financial or political motivation of any kind, so very independent and for whatever reason, they thought I spoke some sense," Ganis said.

Ganis added that he didn't know Harris before his involvement in the Wrigley deal.

Signing off with, "Miss ya, buddy!" Ganis encouraged Harris on Sept. 11 to see that Blagojevich got control of an appointment to any committee formed to lure the Olympics to Chicago in 2016, saying he could "help a lot and also watch out for things and be Rod's (hopefully credible) voice."

He made a fuss when Harris apparently didn't receive a Cubs playoffs invitation, sought to discuss with Harris a "wind power" business, bragged that his cousin is tight with Steven Spielberg and offered Blagojevich and Harris a "direct pipeline" to the Hollywood director.

Ganis told the AP that he had turned down offers to serve on other government boards but thought he could be of value if the state found money for a statewide construction plan that included a committee to help the Chicago Olympics bid. He said he had no plans to run a wind power business himself but had an idea for one to meet state renewable-energy goals and create jobs and more tax revenue.

"Everything that I was involved with in that area was what would be good for the state," Ganis said.

Ganis shows up on a Blagojevich phone log obtained by the AP -- a Sept. 19 dinner date including the governor and his wife and Ganis and a guest. Ganis was also scheduled for an Oct. 30 meeting in Blagojevich's office with Harris and another aide, according to Harris' appointment calendar.

Harris resigned from his $157,000-a-year post Dec. 12. Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office in January.

Several e-mails mention the Illinois Finance Authority, which prosecutors claim Blagojevich and Harris wanted to use to provide financial assistance of $100 million or more to Tribune to get a tax break on its Wrigley sale.

Tribune is in final negotiations to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field to Chicago financier Tom Ricketts and his family, a deal announced in January.

Suggest a correction