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Blago Gets Snared In The Wire

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Dec 5, 2008 5:05PM

2008_12_05_blago.jpgIn a big step forward for federal investigators, former Blagojevich aide and influential lobbyist John Wyma cooperated with the feds and secretly recorded conversations with Governor Blagojevich to help the case against Blago. Wyma was also the chief of staff for Blago during his Congressional days, which makes the revelation even more eyebrow-raising. Earlier this fall, Wyma was named in a federal subpoena issued to Provena Health, a former Wyma client, regarding, "Provena's lobbying relationship with Wyma, the hospital's efforts to win state approval of a new heart program and a $25,000 donation the company's for-profit affiliate gave to Blagojevich's campaign fund."

This isn't the first time Wyma's name has come up in connection with the Blagojevich investigation. As the Trib outlines:

In 2005, another Wyma client won $10 million in state tollway contracts after the owner of a company paid Patricia Blagojevich's home-based real estate company more than $30,000 in commissions on the sale of his condominium to Wyma.

Mark Wight, owner of the architectural firm Wight & Co., said he and Wyma worked out the terms of the sale in private and the $650,000 condominium never was listed.

Indeed, Wyma's and the Blagojeviches' relationship has always been both personal and professional. The governor routinely reported exchanging personal gifts and often appeared at Wyma-sponsored fundraisers where Wyma's clients hobnobbed with the governor before turning over checks for his campaign fund.

But that's not all the bad news for Blago. Yesterday, FBI agents searched a pair of Basinger's Pharmacy stores in Joliet which are owned by Harish M. Bhatt, a major Blago fundraiser. Bhatt has also been the subject of investigations surrounding possible Medicaid fraud and apparently getting another pharmacist to pay him $25,000 for "protection" from state regulators.

All of this follows the recent conviction of Tony Rezko and his apparent cooperation with prosecutors as well as the indictment of William Cellini for extorting campaign contributions for Blago from a film producer. What are the odds Sen. Durbin will be writing President Obama in 2012 or 2016 to commute Blago's sentence?

AP Photo/M. Spencer Green