Rod Blagojevich's Former Chief of Staff Lon Monk Testifies that Blagojevich Made Deal for Obama's Senate Seat (Trial Day 6)

Emil Jones agreed not to call a vote if Rod named him to Obama's Senate seat”

— Lon Monk

A former top aide says that as governor, Rod Blagojevich said he had a deal to appoint a state legislator to Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat in exchange for letting a veto of ethics legislation stand.

Alonzo Monk testified Thursday that Blagojevich was worried the legislation would hurt his ability to raise funds because it banned people with state contracts of $50,000 or more from donating to the campaigns of politicians who administered them.

Monk quoted Blagojevich as saying Jones agreed to the deal, but Jones called for the vote after Obama urged him to do so. It passed just over a month before Obama was elected president.

Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich had a deal with state Sen. President Emil Jones that might have stopped Illinois ethics legislation from passing in 2008 and landed Jones in Congress, Monk testified this afternoon at Blagojevich's corruption trial.

If the state senate did not override Blagojevich's veto of a bill that would limit the governor's fundraising, Blagojevich would name Jones to the U. S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, Monk said.

"Emil Jones agreed not to call a vote if Rod named him to Obama's Senate seat," Monk said.

A former confidant portrayed ex- Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday as so obsessed with raising political cash that he tried to swap an appointment to the U.S. Senate in order to derail an ethics bill that would crimp his fundraising prowess.

In 2008, Blagojevich was in such a frenzy to block the ethics legislation that he agreed to elevate then- Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. to the U.S. Senate post held by Barack Obama if Jones would bury the ethics reform, testified Alonzo "Lon" Monk, a longtime Blagojevich friend and aide.

Not long before he was elected President, Barack Obama delivered a message to Illinois' most powerful senator, Senate President Emil Jones. Obama told Jones to pass a state ethics reform bill that Governor Blagojevich had recently vetoed.

Testimony this afternoon from Governor Blagojevich's former Chief of Staff, Lon Monk, reveals Barack Obama called Illinois Senate President Emil Jones to ask him to "call the state ethics bill for a vote... so it didn't negatively impact his (Obama's) candidacy" (for President of the United States). Afterall, Obama's Presidential campaign was based on the message of "Hope" and "Change" from the typical back room deal politics.

Testimony quickly turned to “ambassadorships” and Rod Blagojevich’s $25,000 donor club today when the former governor’s onetime friend and chief of staff Alonzo “Lon” Monk took the stand for a second day.

Monk said that in May or June of 2003, shortly before Blagojevich’s first big fundraising event as governor, he and the governor sat down with key fundraisers Chris Kelly and Antoin “Tony” Rezko to talk about appointments to several open positions at state boards and commissions.

The government's corruption case against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is filled with a confusing swirl of players who fade in and out of the story and often seem to have tenuous connections to one another.

But for one night at least, many in the cast of characters gathered in a posh downtown hotel banquet room, according to a government exhibit entered into evidence last week.

The occasion was an annual fundraising gala for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on May 14, 2003, just months after Blagojevich took office. The charity, founded by the late comedian Danny Thomas, was a pet cause of Blagojevich adviser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who would later be sent to prison for corrupting state regulatory panels.

Now we know just how devoted Emil Jones Jr. was to advancing Barack Obama’s political career. More devoted than he was to his own.

Lon Monk, Rod Blagojevich’s ex-chief of staff, testified that Blagojevich had made a deal to appoint Jones to the Senate, if Jones would kill an ethics bill preventing individuals or companies with state business from making political donations. Blagojevich had already vetoed it. Jones agreed -- until Obama called, asking him to pass the bill, so John McCain would have a little less Illinois sleaze to campaign against.