Rod Blagojevich's former second-in-command said the Illinois governor didn't just run from his executive responsibilities, he hid from them as well.
Bob Greenlee, who served as deputy governor for Illinois in 2008, said Blagojevich would dodge former budget director John Filan by hiding out in the bathroom. The game of hide-and-seek came at a time when Illinois was running a multi-billion dollar deficit.
While that may seem immature, at least he was at the office — an atypical occurrence, according to Greenlee's testimony Thursday atBlagojevich's federal corruption trial. Blagojevich usually worked from home or his Chicago campaign headquarters, Greenlee said, only coming into the office for two to eight hours a week.
Greenlee had a busy job tracking Rod down to sign or veto laws and discuss policy. He would regularly get late evening calls from the governor for advice. But in the 2008 election season, Blagojevich kept Greenlee and his staff researching possible scenarios for the U.S. Senate appointment that would be his to make if Barack Obama won the presidency.
Greenlee prepared numerous reports for the governor at his request—but many of them concerned the governor himself, rather than the state of Illinois. Blagojevich was seemingly manic about getting responses quickly, leaving Greenlee 20 to 30 minutes to report back.
Blagojevich was giving heavy consideration to appoint himself to the Senate seat in early November, in order to avoid the possibility of impeachment. Dodging his possible ouster was of top concern, but he did have one more question on Nov. 7.
"He wanted to know if Patti was going to be able to lobby," Greenlee testified.
Greenlee and his staff examined the issue and concluded that she could indeed lobby in Washington, D.C., as long as she avoided her husband. Blagojevich was intrigued by the possibility.
But as long as she was in Chicago, Patti stayed involved in her husband's role as governor. She took a special interest in Rod's relationship with Sam Zell and two of his companies: the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Cubs. The administration was working with Zell to sell Wrigley Field to the state in 2008. Blagojevich allegedly plotted to upset the deal with the team if Zell did not fire his critics—a plan Patti heartily endorsed after Greenlee produced a report on recent negative editorials the paper had printed about Blagojevich.
"Hold up that Cubs (deal), f*** them," she told the governor and Greenlee on Nov. 3. "Just fire them...do something about the editorial board."
Blagojevich had been furious at the paper for editorials praising Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's opposition to the governor's agenda. But both Patti and Rod became incensed when the Tribune raised the idea of exploring an impeachment committee.
That is a far cry from the Patti the public has met throughout the trial.
"My husband loves his Cubs," she said with a smile, as the former first couple left the courthouse two weeks ago.
The former first lady's tape may not end up impacting the charges against her husband. The Tribune charge is under fire right now. Federal Judge James Zagel revisited Blagojevich's indictment following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which narrowed the Honest Services Act—a law from which many of his charges derived. The judge said he would entertain the dismissal of the Tribune charge because it appeared Blagojevich was attempting to bribe the newspaper, not the other way around, as the law now requires.
Zagel has yet to rule on the motion. But whatever the charge's fate, the wiretap is a revealing one. Patti had been at her husband's side throughout the trial—until recent days when the prosecution began taking aim at her role in Blagojevich's alleged corruption. Former associates of influence peddler Tony Rezko and two real estate agents testified that Patti received checks from the convicted Rezko for work that was never performed. The government believes Rezko used her real estate company to kick back money to Blagojevich.
But the jury heard Patti in her own words for the first time on Thursday morning—she was not present at the time.
The former first lady, who has been seen knitting in the courtroom, apparently has an aggressive side, similar to her husband. Patti, it seems, could keep up with Rod's sailor talk and wasn't afraid to get tough.
Her stern words for the Tribune appeared to have riled up her husband against Greenlee's attempts to tip-toe around such a "sensitive" issue.
"Why is it sensitive?" Blagojevich said. "We'll be straight-forward: we're going out doing this stuff for (Zell), it's good for Illinois, but it's good for Zell financially."
Greenlee testified that he did not favor the alleged scheme, but went along with Blagojevich because he feared his "in-and-out" mentality.
"In the event I could see him moving into a position I'd jump in there first and say what he wanted to hear," he testified.
If the testimony sounds familiar, it's because it is.
The prosecution has called a number of Blagojevich's former advisors—and in some cases alleged co-conspirators to the stand. And each of them, including Greenlee, has said to some degree that they agreed with Blagojevich in conversation because they were afraid of him.
Greenlee is also the second former deputy governor to testify to Blagojevich's lackadaisical work ethic. Bradley Tusk, who held the position in Blagojevich's first term, said it was often his job to sign legislation and otherwise make legislative decisions for the governor.
Blagojevich now faces more than 400 years in prison for numerous corruption charges, including extortion and racketeering.