Blagojevich, horse racing and teacher health insurance sweeps.


My refusal to shed tears for Rod Blagojevich drew some interesting responses from some of my readers.

I’m not the only one who isn’t very forgiving or forgetful when it comes to one of our numerous jailed governors.


This may not be very important to many teachers, or the public in general, but Blago is almost single-handedly responsible for the further demise of the Illinois Harness Racing Industry.

Specifically, the formal investigation related to his wrong doings uncovered a $100K campaign contribution related to his holding up signing legislation that would allow Balmoral & Maywood Parks sharing IL casino profits. As a direct result under Federal Racketeering Laws (RICO), both race tracks declared bankruptcy and are now shuttered. Hundreds of barn worker, trainers, teller, grounds workers, parking lot attendants, security personal etc. lost their jobs. Not to mention the local area businesses that are affected.

Hawthorne Race Course has a short month long meet in January and a summer/fall meet while the thoroughbreds are racing at Arlington, whereas before there was harness racing year round in the greater Chicago Area.

The trickle down effect not only reduces State income from their share of the wagering, but also ripples down to the Illinois based harness breeding industry.

I am sorry, but I have no sympathy for someone who is being portrayed as not financially benefiting from his schemes, when literally thousands have suffered due to his selfish criminal actions. I suppose that this is one of the crimes for which he did go to jail. To all of those whose world was turned upside down, 14 years doesn’t seem like enough.

Tom White, retired teacher and fan of IL Harness Racing

It turns out that there is more to this story than Tom’s desire to lose his money on harness racing.

Reporter Jim Dey wrote a column today about Blago, payoffs, horse racing and a fixer named Lon Monk.

Monk, who was among a number of Blagojevich associates to go to prison, testified in the civil case. He continued to parse his words on the stand, denying there was a formal “agreement” to pay $100,000 for Blagojevich’s signature while affirming that once the $100,000 was paid, Blagojevich would sign the bill.

“That is a quid pro quo agreement. … Monk and Johnston did not have to use the word ‘agreement’ in their testimony to allow a jury to find a quid pro quo agreement,” the court said.

Monk’s name is just one blast from the past. Ordered to serve two years in prison for his role in the racetrack scheme, he’s long since been released.

Stuart Levine was another a key player in the Blagojevich scandals. Like Monk, he, too, agreed to plead guilty and testify about the extortion network over which Blagojevich presided. The 70-year-old Levine was released earlier this month after nearly four years behind bars.

Of all the onetime Blagojevich bigshots, including Tony Rezko and Springfield’s Bill Cellini, only the former governor remains behind bars. But even though he’s tucked far away at a federal prison in Colorado, litigation from his corruption capers still consumes the courts’ time.

Recall that I wrote about Levine, Rezko and Bill Cellini the other day in relation to attempts by Blago and Rauner to get their hands on Teacher Retirement System money.

Then there is this from retired teacher Jack Tucker.

(In 2005 there was a Blagojevich) bill that “swept” money from nearly all the dedicated funds that are buried in the Illinois budget. I was at a TRS Board meeting where a budget official was making a presentation.

I asked, didn’t the state steal about $5M from TRIP (retired teacher health insurance). He initially said, “oh, no, that can’t be right”. (Suggesting that it was a much smaller number).

His assistant proceeded to look the figure up and it turned out to be $5.12M. I have since used the corrected figure.

They also stole money from a fund that was contributed by licensed professionals for continuing education (like our teaching certificate registration fees) and money from another fund that was supposed to provide medical benefits for veterans.

It is true.

In 2005 Blago took $5 million from the Teachers’ Health Insurance Security Fund that was created in 1995 to provide financial security for TRIP, the Illinois Teachers Retirement Insurance Porgram in order to balance the budget even though our retirement health insurance was experiencing funding shortfalls.

The fund was created with dollars contributed by active teachers, retired teachers, school districts, and the General Revenue Fund.

Blago used his power to sweep funds from one account and put it in another account.

A corrupt governor and a failed revenue system is a toxic mix.

And there are plenty of us old folks who still have good memories.

6 Replies to “Blagojevich, horse racing and teacher health insurance sweeps.”

  1. He was a corrupt crook and may continue to be once out…we all know what lice many politicians have turned out to be. Keep the jerk locked up!

  2. Since he is helping his fellow prisoners so much (when out, he helped himself plenty) & doing so much good there, it seems like that is the best place for him to stay.
    Because he certainly didn’t do any of us much good when he was out.
    Good call, Judge Zagel.

  3. In addition to all this pension and insurance theft that was going on, Rod took a couple of “pension holidays” which put TRS and the other state systems billions more in debt. He had the right idea at first, getting bonds at a couple percent to pay off some of the 8 percent pension debt. But then instead of using all of it as intended, he took billions of it to pay other stuff, claiming we did not need more revenue. Rauner will do the same thing if he gets a chance. “Pension holidays” should be made a crime for any governor or mayor that engages in such actions.

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