- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rahm Emanuel wanted answers. Funds from a $2 million state grant to a school in his congressional district had not arrived, so he went straight to the man in charge: then-Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

For four successive days in 2006, the congressmen, who is now President Obama’s chief of staff, called Mr. Blagojevich, with one message noting it was about the Chicago Academy, according to thousands of pages of call logs reviewed by the Associated Press. Mr. Emanuel’s chief of staff followed the next week with four more calls to a top Blagojevich aide.

The school grant is at the heart of an extortion allegation against Mr. Blagojevich, who was thrown out as Illinois governor in January and faces multiple federal corruption charges.

Prosecutors say Mr. Blagojevich learned the congressman was inquiring about the school and hatched a scheme to squeeze Mr. Emanuel to get his Hollywood superagent brother to hold a fundraiser for the governor in exchange for releasing the school funds.

The school eventually got its money, and no fundraiser was held. But the brother, Ari Emanuel, shows up on the governor’s call logs for the first time 2 1/2 weeks after the state issued the final payment to the school.

Through spokeswomen, both brothers declined to explain why they were calling the governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, during that time. Neither Rahm nor Ari Emanuel has been accused of wrongdoing.

The indictment does not name the Emanuels, instead referring to “Congressman A” and his brother. A person familiar with details of the indictment, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential, confirmed that the references are to Rahm and Ari Emanuel.

The indictment also does not say whether either Rahm or Ari Emanuel was ever pressured to raise money. It charges only that Mr. Blagojevich told a lobbyist and a state official to talk to the congressman about a fundraiser, suggesting his brother host it.

Mr. Emanuel previously came under scrutiny in the case after Obama officials acknowledged that he talked to the governor about Mr. Obama’s vacant Senate seat, which federal officials claim Mr. Blagojevich was scheming to auction off. They determined his discussions were “totally appropriate and acceptable.”

Mr. Harris is charged with one count of wire fraud and is cooperating with the investigation. Attorneys for Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Harris did not return phone calls seeking comment. Mr. Blagojevich has repeatedly said he is innocent of all charges.

Rahm Emanuel and Mr. Blagojevich never connected during a four-day flurry of phone calls beginning Aug. 29, 2006, according to the records. One message indicates Mr. Emanuel was calling about the Chicago Academy, whose grant was being administered by the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity at Mr. Blagojevich’s direction.

Finally, Mr. Emanuel talked with Mr. Harris on Sept. 1.

That conversation was followed the next week by four calls to Mr. Harris from Mr. Emanuel’s chief of staff, Elizabeth Smith, Mr. Harris’ phone logs show.

The fourth, on Sept. 12, included the message, “The academy received the first check of $250,000 on Friday. What is the status of the past due amount of $150,000?”

There is no record of Mr. Harris returning any of Ms. Smith’s calls, the last of which was Oct. 16. But state records show the academy got payments of $150,000 and $500,000 in September, $178,000 in October and the balance, $916,000, on Dec. 15.

The phone records show Mr. Blagojevich and Mr. Emanuel spoke on Nov. 30. On Dec. 20, five days after the last payment, the log has a note that the governor “wants to call Rahm.”

Just weeks later, Ari Emanuel, a powerful agent who is the basis for Jeremy Piven’s character on the HBO series “Entourage,” first shows up in the governor’s call log, according to a review of Mr. Blagojevich’s call logs since 2003, which contain a seven-month gap in 2004 and 2005. The messages don’t show the reason behind the calls.

On Jan. 3, 2007, Mr. Blagojevich’s log reads, “Ari Emanuel called and would like to speak to you. Endeavor Talent Agency.”

The two exchanged messages until speaking on Jan. 19.

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