It seems that Attorney General Designee Eric Holder forgot to list that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to hire him to sort out the state's long dormant casino license on his 47-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire made public this week. Considering that he submitted to questionnaire five days after Blagojevich's high profile arrest at a time when Barack Obama's transition team was shaken over the conversations between some of its member and the Governor, Holder's position that this was an oversight seems a tad suspicious.
Blagojevich and Holder appeared together at a March 24, 2004, news conference to announce Holder's role as "special investigator to the Illinois Gaming Board" -- a post that was to pay Holder and his Washington, D.C. law firm up to $300,000.
Holder's firm never got the assignment because the staff of the Illinois Gaming Board recommended against it.
In an interview Tuesday, the Gaming Board's chief investigator in 2004 said the timing of Blagojevich's appointment of Holder raised the staff's suspicions.
"The concern was Holder had a bias to do whatever Blagojevich wanted, which was to give the casino to Rosemont," said Jim Wagner, who was a top Chicago FBI agent before he joined the Gaming Board, from which he retired in December 2005. "We all believed the only reason Holder was coming in was to fashion an investigation that would manipulate the casino into Rosemont."
The Board had earlier gone against its staff recommendation to allow a casino to be built in Rosemont. The staff had earlier raised concerns about alleged organized-crime links to the Rosemont casino's developer, which the Board had not heeded. The staff was also concerned that
... the governor had named his close friend and fund-raiser, Christopher G. Kelly, as a "special government agent" to be involved in official state negotiations about the casino. Kelly, the Sun-Times later learned, was a business partner of Tony Rezko, another Blagojevich fund-raiser who had held an option to lease a hotel site next to the proposed casino site in Rosemont.
Alleged organized crime links and Rosemont are terms that often appeared together in news stories over the years. Rosemont is a suburb of around 4,000 residents adjacent to Chicago's O'Hare airport. Under the leadership of the late Donald Stephens, a Republican who died in 2007 during his thirteenth consecutive four year term as mayor, Rosemont became once of the nation's top convention centers. Allegations of corruption swirled around Stephens his entire career.