CHICAGO — A politically connected roadbuilding executive said Tuesday that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich dangled the possibility that he might launch a $6 billion highway program urgently needed by the industry – but seemed to make it contingent on getting campaign money.
"It seemed like in my mind they were coupled," Gerald Krozel, a former official of the American Concrete Paving Association, testified at Blagojevich's federal corruption trial.
Krozel's statements about a his meeting with Blagojevich and his inner circle contrasted with testimony from an FBI agent, who said Blagojevich told agents in March 2005 that he tried to stay "a million miles away" from fundraising while he was governor and didn't even want to know who was giving him money and who was not.
Two former finance directors of Blagojevich's campaign fund also testified that Blagojevich was deeply involved in the search for political dollars.
Kelly Glynn, who was finance director of his 2002 campaign, and Danielle Stilz, who later held the same job, testified that Blagojevich attended fundraising meetings, asked detailed questions about who was reaching his fundraising goals, and sometimes cursed and yelled when he felt a fundraiser was falling short.
Stilz testified that Blagojevich "had an intimate knowledge of those numbers."
"He knew them better than I did," she said.
Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sought to get a high-paying job or massive campaign contribution in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama left to move to the White House. He also has pleaded not guilty to scheming to launch a racketeering operation using the powers of the governor's office, and to lying when he denied that he tied campaign fundraising to state jobs and contracts.
Krozel's testimony and that of the two fundraisers was aimed at convincing jurors that Blagojevich was lying at the 2005 meeting with two FBI agents and a pair of federal prosecutors.
The former governor's brother, Robert Blagojevich, 54, has pleaded not guilty to taking part in the alleged scheme to sell or trade the Senate seat and to helping the governor illegally pressure a racetrack owner and a construction executive – Krozel – to contribute money.
Krozel testified that he was summoned by Blagojevich to the September 2008 meeting at his campaign office and found the governor there with his brother and his former chief of staff, Alonzo Monk, who by that time had left state government and become a lobbyist.
He said Blagojevich outlined what he described as a small, $1.5 billion roadbuilding program and the possibility of a larger version totaling $6 billion in construction money.
Krozel said the economy had hit his company hard and they needed that kind of boost. It was then that Blagojevich brought up the subject of campaign money, he said.
"He said he wanted me to do fundraising for him and to do it by the end of the year before the law changes," Krozel said. He said Blagojevich was referring to a state ethics law that starting in January would have barred state contractors from contributing to the governor.
Krozel said he said he didn't know what he could do. But as he left the meeting, he said, somebody – he didn't recall who – asked him how much he thought he could raise. He said that and the fact that there was a January "deadline" to him "implied a connection" with the highway program.
"The money that I could raise for him would have a bearing on the project," he said was his understanding.
Earlier, prosecutors presented testimony aimed at supporting their claim that now-jailed real estate developer Tony Rezko funneled money to the governor through his wife.
Chicago real estate broker Marianne Piazzi testified that she sold a North Side townhouse in August 2003 for about $574,000. She said Blagojevich's wife, Patti, had nothing to do with the sale as far as she knew and she didn't know her then.
FBI agent Jane Ferguson testified that Patti Blagojevich received a $44,000 commission from Rezko for selling the same property. Patti Blagojevich has been charged with no wrongdoing in the case.
Rezko is awaiting sentencing for scheming to launch a $7 million kickback scheme using clout in the governor's office to pack two state boards with power over big money decisions with members who would take orders from him.