CHICAGO
08/09/2011 02:23 pm ET | Updated Oct 09, 2011

Joseph Cari Probation: Former Clinton, Gore Fundraiser Sentenced For Involvement In Blagojevich Case

Joseph Cari, a former Democratic fundraising mastermind, was sentenced to three years' probation in federal court Tuesday, as part of the corruption scheme that ultimately took down former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

Cari was the finance chief for Al Gore's presidential bid in 2000, Bloomberg reports, and also helped raise money for former president Bill Clinton. He has been active on Democratic presidential campaigns since Jimmy Carter's successful 1976 bid.

Nearly six years ago, he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted extortion, within weeks of his 2005 indictment.

The year before, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cari was a part of a deal with a Virginia-based private equity firm, JER Partners. He threatened that firm that it would lose its $80 million deal with the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, the fund that manages teachers' pensions, unless it gave a $750,000 kickback to an associate of Tony Rezko.

Since his guilty plea, Cari has aided the prosecutions of a number of other prominent figures, including Blagojevich and Rezko, the governor's top advisor. In fact, according to an Associated Press report, prosecutor Reid Schar told Judge Amy St. Eve that Cari was an unusually cooperative witness, playing a key role in many government corruption cases.

That praise, plus Cari's open remorse, and his refusal to work as a fundraiser for Blagojevich, all apparently contributed to Judge St. Eve sparing him prison time. The Chicago Tribune reports that he could have faced up to two years in jail; instead, he will see nine months of home confinement and a total of three years of probation.

Cari's 2005 arrest was one of the first in Operation Board Games, a federal probe into fraud and extortion at the teacher's pension system and the Health Facilities Planning Board. The investigation reached its public climax with Blagojevich's conviction this summer, but prosecutions against other players continue, as Springfield insider William F. Cellini will stand trial in October.