Barack Obama has flatly said that he has “not discussed the Senate seat with [Rod Blagojevich] at any time.” If that is true — and Obama will undoubtedly be asked the broader question of whether he communicated in any way with Blagojevich on the subject — then the big story in the Blagojevich scandal is the role of intermediaries. Throughout the criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich, there are references to unnamed individuals who play important roles in the scandal — and who know a lot about what went on and who was involved. None of those intermediaries is more intriguing than the person referred to as “Advisor B.”
We first learn about Advisor B in the complaint’s description of a November 7 three-way telephone call between Blagojevich, his chief of staff John Harris, and “Advisor B, a Washington D.C.-based consultant.” It was during this call that the participants talked about a “three-way deal for the open Senate seat,” involving the Service Employees International Union and its affiliated group “Change to Win.” The idea was that Blagojevich would appoint Obama favorite Valerie Jarrett to the seat, and in return, SEIU would make Blagojevich head of “Change to Win,” and then Obama would perform some unspecified act to help “Change to Win.” Harris said such a deal would give Obama a “buffer so there is no obvious quid pro quo for [Senate Candidate One],” according to the complaint. (“Senate Candidate One,” we now know, refers to Jarrett.) “Advisor B said that he liked the idea of the three-way deal,” the complaint says. “Advisor B said they should leverage the president-elect’s desire to have [Jarrett] appointed to the Senate seat in order to get a head position with Change to Win and a salary.”
The next time we meet Advisor B is on November 10, during a two-hour conference call involving Blagojevich, Blagojevich’s wife, Harris, Blagojevich’s general counsel, “and various Washington-D.C. based advisors, including Advisor B,” according to the complaint. Prosecutors have not said how many “various” advisors there were on the call — some apparently came and went during the two-hour session. On the call, Blagojevich conceded that it was unlikely that Obama would appoint him secretary of Health and Human Services or make him an ambassador. Given that, Blagojevich, according to the complaint, “asked what he can get from the president-elect for the Senate seat.” The group discussed a number of options — remember, this call went on for a very long time. It was a laundry list of corrupt possibilities, and, apparently, several people, including some Washington-based politicos, were in on it.
Advisor B pops up again on November 12, in another conversation with Blagojevich. The two discussed forming a non-profit organization to be headed by Blagojevich and funded by some rich Obama supporter. According to the complaint, “Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the president-elect’s perspective, there would be fewer ‘fingerprints’ on the president-elect’s involvement with Change to Win, because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, ‘you won’t have stories in four years that they bought you off.’”
As I wrote yesterday, the complaint contains a three-week gap — a period in which prosecutors don’t discuss any conversations among the participants. Of that period, the complaint says, “Throughout the past month, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has continued to engage in numerous conversations relating to filling the open Senate seat,” but gives no details. The details do not resume until December 4, the last big day in the Senate-seat plot. On that day, according to the complaint, Blagojevich “spoke to Advisor B and informed Advisor B that he was giving Senate Candidate Five [now known to be Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.] greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if ROD BLAGOJEVICH ran for re-election, Senate Candidate Five would ‘raise money’ for ROD BLAGOJEVICH, although ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he might ‘get some (money) up front, maybe,’ from Senate Candidate Five to insure Senate Candidate Five kept his promise about raising money for ROD BLAGOJEVICH.” The complaint goes on to say that in a phone call recorded on October 31, Blagojevich said he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate Five — that is, Jackson — for “pay to play” in which Jackson would raise $500,000 for Blagojevich and an emissary would raise $1 million for Blagojevich, if Blagojevich made Jackson a senator. Jackson has strongly denied all of the allegations.
The next day, December 5, the Chicago Tribune published an article reporting that Blagojevich was under surveillance. Blagojevich immediately stopped his efforts to sell the Senate seat and began to work on his legal defense. But from the actions described in the criminal complaint, there are some key players who remain unknown and, so far, uncharged. Anyone who wants to understand the Blagojevich scandal will have to learn more about Advisor B.