- Associated Press - Monday, July 19, 2010

CHICAGO | Former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s brother testified Monday that he never tied political contributions to government business while he served as chairman of the ousted Illinois governor’s campaign fund, and he portrayed himself as frequently outside the loop during political discussions.

“I was told never to tie the two and I never did,” Robert Blagojevich said, while across the courtroom at the defense table the Democratic former governor nodded his head.

Robert Blagojevich, who was testifying as a co-defendant in his brother’s corruption trial, said he understood from the day he became head of the campaign fund in August 2008 that he was never to condition state actions on donations.

The two have pleaded not guilty to taking part in an alleged scheme to sell or trade President Obama’s former Senate seat.

Rod R. Blagojevich, 53, has pleaded not guilty to scheming to sell or trade the Senate seat and to plotting to launch a racketeering operation in the governor’s office.

Robert Blagojevich, 54, has also pleaded not guilty to taking part in a scheme to sell the seat and to a wire fraud charge that he was involved in pressuring two businessmen illegally for campaign funds.

Much of the prosecution testimony centered on what they said was the ousted governor’s hope to be appointed to Mr. Obama’s Cabinet or receive another major post in exchange for appointing the president’s family friend, Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate seat.

A person close to the corruption trial said Monday that it’s highly unlikely the defense team will call Ms. Jarrett, now a White House adviser, to testify. The person said attorneys doubt Ms. Jarrett could add much to the case.

Robert Blagojevich, a Tennessee businessman before joining his brother’s gubernatorial office, testified that he did not know an increase in state reimbursement for pediatric specialists was pending when he contacted the chief executive of Children’s Memorial about raising campaign funds. He said he and his brother always had positive feelings about the hospital because a cousin who died of childhood leukemia had been well treated there.

The governor’s older brother downplayed his significance in matters that took place in the Friends of Blagojevich headquarters, saying that he was merely “the scorekeeper” in the fundraising process.

He said he did attend fundraising meetings in the campaign office at which witnesses say Rod Blagojevich urged his aides to try to get contributions out of a road builder who was hoping for a big toll road program and a racetrack owner who was awaiting action from the governor on a major racetrack bill.

But Robert Blagojevich said his brother often went into a back office with lobbyists including two former aides, John Wyma and Alonzo Monk, to discuss “stuff I wasn’t part of.”

He also explained that fundraising for his brother was difficult in part because of reports that his administration was under investigation.

Rod’s brand, Rod as a politician, was tarnished,” he said, adding that they got the answer “no” more often than “yes” in trying to raise money.



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