Bill Brady's Rod Blagojevich Problem: Dean Martinez / Juan Ochoa Fundraiser Raises Questions
Illinois's Republican candidate for Governor has spent most of the campaign season tying his opponent to disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. But ten days before the election, it is Brady himself who's defending his connections to the former Governor's staff.
At the gubernatorial debate on Wednesday night, incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Quinn accused Brady of holding a secret fundraiser with Blagojevich's deputy governor, Dean Martinez, and Blago appointee Juan Ochoa.
Both men were active fundraisers for Rod Blagojevich, and held a major event for the governor just three days before his arrest.
Brady, caught off guard by the accusation, did admit to working with Martinez and Ochoa. "Governor Quinn is drawing for straws. These are fine people -- but let me talk about Governor Quinn," Brady said, quickly changing gears.
Scroll down to watch a clip of Brady's response.
Later in the debate, he defended his connections to the men again. "I believe they are leaders in the Latino community. They did host a fundraiser for me... They are good people who care deeply about their community and their state. And I look forward to their guidance."
"What the public should make of it," he continued, "is Bill Brady is reaching out to the Latino community. We're winning them over."
But some members of the Latino community were less than charmed by Brady's association with tainted politicians of the pay-to-play school. Lou Sandoval of the "Latinos for Bill Brady" group penned a memo following the debate, expressing outrage at his candidate's ties to the two men:
It is well known that both Dean Martinez and Juan Ochoa were major fundraisers for Governor Blagojevich. It is also well known that both organized one of the last fundraisers for Blagojevich just three days before the former Governor was arrested in December 2008. It is unconscionable to us and to the voters of Illinois that the Brady for Governor campaign accept any tainted contribution, monetary or other, from such individuals who played by Governor Blagojevich's illicit and illegal rules.
The response from the Brady campaign?
"Latinos for Brady is not a group recognized or working directly for the Brady campaign," campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh told ABC-7.
The campaign is refusing to return contributions raised by the two men.
Dean Martinez was appointed by Gov. Blagojevich just over a week before his arrest. He was one of the first Blago appointees to be fired by Quinn, who relieved Martinez just a month into his term. Juan Ochoa was the CEO of "McPier," the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that operates McCormick Place and Navy Pier, where he presided over a tumultuous and debt-ridden period. He was appointed to the $200,000-a-year post because of his close ties to -- and fundraising efforts for -- Governor Blagojevich.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Brady has tarred Quinn for his associations to Blagojevich, under whom he served as Lieutenant Governor before Blago's arrest and Quinn's elevation to Governor. He's run ads describing "Blagojevich-Quinn policies," and repeated quotes in which Quinn praised his predecessor's honesty and integrity.
During the Republican primary, as Progress Illinois reminds its readers, Brady said of Blago's appointees, "I'd fumigate 'em. These are political appointees by corrupt people."
Having those fumigated workers raise funds for his campaign is a contradiction Brady is hoping to play down between now and that fateful Tuesday. But his opponent might not let him live it down.
Watch Bill Brady respond about his Ochoa-Martinez fundraiser: