September 20, 2010
A Political Prisoner in Illinois?
A voice from inside Chicago's Cook County Jail claims that the Save A Life Foundation (SALF) story implicates both Democrat and Republican pols in Illinois.
The American Thinker reported last July 26 that the now-defunct Chicago suburb-based "charity" failed to report to the Illinois Attorney General's office over $850,000 in grants received from Illinois and U.S. federal agencies. Earlier that month, I suggested elsewhere that a former SALF employee is jailed in Cook County for what she knows more than for what she's alleged to have done.
Former SALF employee-turned-whistleblower Annabel Melongo was jailed last April because she uploaded recordings of a couple of benign phone conversations to her website. She was charged with eavesdropping and assigned a $500,000 bond, later reduced to $300,000 -- an unusually high bond for an eavesdropping charge.
Before her troubles began, Melongo worked for Robert Half International, one of the world's largest placement agencies, as a temp at SALF running computers for the foundation, whose charter was to provide first aid training for schoolchildren. After six months at SALF, Melongo moved on in mid-2006.
A few months later, she was arrested for allegedly destroying SALF's computers. The prosecution, spearheaded by Cook County State's Attorney, Anita Alvarez, received considerable assistance from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. Madigan's office recently confirmed that an investigation into SALF is underway.
The dubious case against Melongo has been dragging on for years. Why dubious? Well, according to this November 2006 "ABC I-Team" expose, SALF's historical relationship with the truth was...well, dubious.
A couple of months ago, blogger Charles Johnson wrote to Ms. Melongo in jail. In response, Ms. Melongo sent him a scathing indictment of the corrupt system that is Illinois politics. Her letter mentions U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
The text of Melongo's letter below includes minor edits for clarity. (After French and German, English is her third language.) You can read the original letter in Melongo's handwriting here.
July 6th, 2010Dear Charles,Thanks for the interest you show in the case. I would prefer to correspond in English since my story was written in that language. I'm happy to hear that you want to make the story public. However, you can't achieve this by putting the story through a political lens.Why?Simply because SALF, in a strange way, was bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats were all involved in it. To show you how complex it would be, here's an example: The Republican challenger, Kim Lee [correction: it's actually Steve Kim], might use the story against Lisa Madigan, a Democrat. On the other hand, Alex Giannoulias, a Democrat, might use the story against Mark Kirk, a Republican, in their race for the U.S. Senate. This bipartisan factor has made it extremely difficult to have the story endorsed by a political party since if that party points to some wrong doing, the same dirt can be pointed in return as far as the SALF's story is concerned. The only way to make the story public is to address corruption in Illinois in its general form.In that way, the story is above politics and addresses a real Illinois disease. In doing so, all the political figures associated with SALF will have some explaining to do. For instance Mark Kirk will have to explain why he sponsored a bill that financially benefited SALF without checking the organization‘s accomplishments. IL Sen. Emil Jones will have to explain why he became instrumental in putting SALF in Illinois' budget. US Sne. Dick Durbin will have to explain why, long after the ABC reports, he was still in touch with SALF sponsoring a bill to front the organization money. The same goes with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Finally the Madigans will have some explaining to do. First, IL Speaker of the House Mike Madigan will have to explain why the $200,000 he helped SALF acquire was never used toward its intended real estate purpose. IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan will have to explain why she never bothered to investigate the fact that most money given to SALF by Illinois agencies has turned out to be without supporting records, including within her own agency. Also, why did she never bother to investigate all the lies that SALF put in its IRS returns; lies about corporate board members not being paid, when it turned out that those members were paid employees; lies about SALF not paying lobbyists when there are records that Illinois Consulting Group, John Burke and a DC-based law firm were all lobbyists helping and facilitating political contracts and bills on behalf of SALF. What has a company which covered up SALF's financial scam by filing misleading IRS returns never been investigated? That's another question the Illinois Attorney General will have to explain.If the story is put in that light, it will work its way towards exposing political figures and remain un-stained by SALF's ties to political parties. In that way the general public will see the truth in it and will be attracted by the story.Most of the things I've mentioned, except the financial aspect, are being played out on the internet. On my website under ‘Related links' you'll find some stories connecting SALF to politicians. The financial aspect hasn't been made public yet. I happen to know about that because, while representing myself, I had the power to subpoena.In my subpoenas, there was no direct email between Obama and Carol Spizzirri. However there's a manager, Vince Davis, who told employees, through an email, about Obama sponsoring a bill to fuel $10 million or so, I don't recall the exact amount, to the organization. That was the only and first time I ever saw Obama's name mentioned in the SALF saga. The email in question was sent in response to employees panicking in the wake of the November 16, 2006 ABC investigative report. If that turns to be true, then it's a big story in itself.I guess that's all I can tell you for the time being. Good luck with the story. Let me know if there's something or information you still need.Sincerely,Annabel
Senator Durbin's media office was contacted last July 30 with this question: "Does Senator Durbin have any reservations or concerns today about his long-time support of SALF?"
When Christina Mulka, representing the senator's media office, responded by asking for a definition of "long-term support," she was provided with this You Tube video documenting Durbin's support for SALF back in 1995.
Mulka's subsequent e-mail response on July 30 stated,
Senator Durbin's involvement was limited to the service he would provide for any Illinois constituent - he and his staff helped the founder navigate the bureaucracy in Washington. As you saw in the CNN video, Senator Durbin's support was personal in nature and did not extend beyond having sympathy with Carol Spizzirri. Senator Durbin wrote no legislation on behalf of SALF and never worked to appropriated funding for the organization.And, I hardly think that a video - that is 15 years old - of Senator Durbin expressing sympathy for a woman who lost her daughter in a tragic accident is evidence of long-term support.
Although details of the "tragic accident" were thoroughly discredited years ago, what Durbin's press representative wrote would be true enough if a 15-year-old video was the most recent evidence of Durbin's support for SALF.
When asked if the video represented Durbin's "last contact" with SALF, Mulka responded via e-mail that
You have asked about a 15 year old contact between then-Congressman Durbin and a constituent; I explained he was sympathetic to her in the wake of terrible personal tragedy.You have asked whether Sen. Durbin has provided support for her or her organization; I explained that other than being sympathetic on a personal level, he has not secured federal or private funds for her or her group, and did not introduce any legislation to assist SALF while he served in the House or the Senate.You asked for an on-the-record statement from our office; we provided you with such a statement.In each case, I have responded as quickly as possible and to the best of my ability about an event that occurred more than a decade ago, and has not been an on-going issue for this office since.And off-the-record: Given the ideological bent of your website, I will confess that I am suspicious of your motives. I think we will let our responses to your previous questions stand, and move on to other, more timely matters.
On September 11, Mulka was presented with this press release from the Mayor's Press Office, City of Chicago, dated August 28, 2006, in the context of renewing the initial inquiry.
City to Empahsize [sic.] Emergency Preparedness in SeptemberThe City of Chicago will make a special effort to teach Chicagoans how to protect themselves in emergency situations during September, which has been designated National Preparedness Month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Mayor Richard M. Daley said today.The Mayor also endorsed the federal Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. The bill would provide grants to cities and states to develop evacuation plans, conduct drills and stockpile materials to supply the shelters where people are transported."Thanks to the hard work of many departments of City government, Chicago is as prepared as any city can be to deal with natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other emergencies," Daley said at a news conference with Durbin at the City's Emergency Communications Center, 1411 W. Madison St."But as we've seen time and again, people have a much greater chance of escaping death or serious injury when they're prepared for a disaster. Our police and fire departments do a great job, but they can't be everywhere at once. You have to look out for yourself and your family and loved ones."The events and exercises scheduled for National Preparedness Month include a voluntary evacuation drill in a section of the Loop.In addition, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications will make presentations at senior centers, with a special emphasis on the needs of older Chicagoans in dealing with unexpected events.The OEMC, in cooperation with the Save-A-Life Foundation, will visit schools to teach children the basics of emergency preparedness. The heads of City emergency agencies will be available to the news media throughout the month to inform Chicagoans about emergency precautions.The City is working with the Ad Council to circulate a series of public service announcements to the print and electronic media that will urge Chicagoans to take a few simple steps to prepare themselves for emergencies. Public service advertising also will be placed on CTA trains, buses, stations and bus benches.Practical tips on preparing for emergencies are available at http://www.alertchicago.com/In supporting Durbin's legislation, Daley said, "Whether the disaster is natural or man-made, it's often necessary to move large numbers of people in a very short time - and that requires a lot of planning and a lot of money."Most federal grants for homeland security go toward personnel and equipment, which are obviously necessary. But as we saw during Hurricane Katrina, you also need a good, solid evacuation plan that has been tested and refined."
There's been no additional response from Senator Durbin's media office.