Union Leader Testifies at Blagojevich Trial That Obama Called Him to Suggest Jarrett for US Senate Seat, Recalls Conversations Involving Giannoulias

He said, 'You know, I love being governor, but my real passion is health care,'" and then he asked about the Health and Human Services cabinet post.”

— Tom Balanoff, SEIU Official, testifying about conversation with Rod Blagojevich

I was going to use our union's influence to make a good decision.”

— Tom Balanoff

That somehow if I could get this foundation set up he [Blagojevich] would be open to appointing Valerie Jarrett.”

— Tom Balanoff

That mother f-----, I wouldn't do s--- for him [Giannoulias]. Every chance he got he took a shot at me.

If she [Schakowsky] had any ancestors who came over on slave ships she'd be fine.”

— Rod Blagojevich, from Tom Balanoff testimony

"Tom, i want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat," Obama told him.
Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010.
Obama said he wasn't publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill.
"I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria," Balanoff said Obama told him. "I said: 'thank you, I'm going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich."

Balanoff said he planned to tell Blagojevich that if he didn't appoint Jarrett then the governor couldn't expect future help from the union, a major Democratic contributor.

"I was going to use our union's influence to make a good decision," Balanoff said.

Balanoff said he tried meeting with Blagojevich that Saturday to have coffee. Blagojevich told him he'd be out of town.

"I really felt that he blew me off," Balanoff testified.

Prosecutors this afternoon had union official Tom Balanoff listen to a phone call Rod Blagojevich made to him in which the then-Illinois governor pushed for the creation of an issues-advocacy group that he could head in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate.

Wealthy friends of Barack Obama, who had just been elected president, could fund an organization overnight that he could lead, Blagojevich said in the call on Nov. 12, 2008. And the organization could help the new senator, Jarrett, Blagojevich said.

“He’s making this proposition and in return Valerie Jarrett could be named senator,” testified Balanoff, saying he never had any intention of taking the idea back to the Obama camp, which Balanoff had represented in discussions with the governor.