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Ill. governor: Convicted pal must tell truth

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is calling on Tony Rezko to tell the truth, the day after federal prosecutors indicated that the convicted fundraiser might be cooperating with them.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday called on Antoin "Tony" Rezko to tell the truth, a day after federal prosecutors strongly hinted that the political fundraiser, convicted in a state corruption scandal, might be cooperating in their investigation.

Rezko's trial exposed a corrupt culture of payoffs and campaign finance abuses plaguing Illinois politics. The Democratic governor has not been charged with a crime but has been politically damaged by allegations of wrongdoing within his administration.

"He, like everybody else, should tell the truth," said Blagojevich, who answered reporters' questions about Rezko for about seven minutes after attending a dedication ceremony at Chicago State University.

The governor repeated his insistence that he does things right, although friends may make mistakes.

Convicted in June
Rezko was convicted in June of launching a $7 million scheme to use his clout within Blagojevich's administration to squeeze kickbacks out of a contractor and money management firms wanting to do business with the state.

Federal prosecutors moved Monday to indefinitely delay Rezko's sentencing, which had been set for later this month, so prosecutors and defense attorneys can "engage in discussions that could affect their sentencing postures," according to court records.

Blagojevich wouldn't say Tuesday whether he was worried about his future now that Rezko, a key fundraiser for himself and Sen. Barack Obama, may be talking to authorities.

The governor said Rezko already has put him in the clear, noting a letter to a federal judge in which Rezko denied being party to any wrongdoing involving Blagojevich or the Democratic presidential candidate.

Rezko wrote the letter to try to persuade the judge presiding over his trial to release him on bond while it was ongoing.

Like Blagojevich, Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing. The senator's name came up much less frequently than the governor's during Rezko's trial.

'Much ado about nothing'
When it comes to Blagojevich, one thing that interests prosecutors is who paid for renovations at his Chicago home, a project on which Rezko's now-defunct Chicago Construction Services was the contractor.

One person familiar with the renovation, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, has said he was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors and asked about the project.

Blagojevich called a question about his home renovation Tuesday "much ado about nothing."

He said he and his wife, Patti, paid for the renovation by writing checks out of their personal accounts, but he deflected questions about releasing the canceled checks.

"The canceled checks are where they belong, they're at the bank and that's where they are if you feel like you want to go get them, go right ahead and get them," he said.

At Rezko's trial, former state employee Ali Ata, who got his job as head of the Illinois Finance Authority from Blagojevich through Rezko, testified that he had to provide $25,000 to Rezko to pay contractors who were threatening to put a lien on the house if the bill was not paid. Ata earlier pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying to the FBI about how Rezko got him his job.

Blagojevich shunned questions about his future and refused to answer when he was asked whether he would resign if indicted in the federal investigation of his administration.

"I'm not going to answer dumb questions like that," he said.