IL Gov. Aide, Cubs Deal Pro Talk `Opportunities'

By: John O'Connor, Associated Press Email
By: John O'Connor, Associated Press Email

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A sports consultant helping Tribune Co.
with a potential Wrigley Field sale said in an e-mail to former
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's top aide that the results of the
presidential election had put "the opportunities we discussed" in
front of Blagojevich, The Associated Press has learned.

Marc Ganis' e-mail to Blagojevich chief of staff John Harris on
Nov. 6 came as federal prosecutors were closing in on the
Democratic governor. Blagojevich was later arrested, impeached and
thrown out of office on allegations that include trying to get
Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired for criticizing him in
return for helping the newspaper's parent company get a tax benefit
on the sale of the iconic ballpark.

Tribune Co. has not been charged with wrongdoing.

"Now that the election has gone as we expected, the
opportunities we discussed, and Rod and I talked even more about,
are in front of you guys," Ganis wrote in one of two dozen e-mail
exchanges between Ganis and Harris obtained by the AP through the
Freedom of Information Act.

"I was going to call the Gov today to get together to continue
the discussion you had us start. ... There is a real possibility
these next two years could be very different than the last two for
you guys. An opportunity that this election may have presented."

Ganis said Monday that the postelection missive was about the
chance for Blagojevich to improve relations with the Illinois
Legislature. He said he was talking to Blagojevich and Harris about
the opportunity to have President Barack Obama or his staff mediate
Blagojevich's long-standing differences with legislators.

The governor's feud with Democratic House Speaker Michael
Madigan had slowed progress at the Capitol for several years.

Blagojevich and Harris were arrested Dec. 9 on a federal
complaint that alleges they tried to sell an appointment to the
U.S. Senate seat Obama vacated and to strong-arm the Chicago
Tribune.

Both deny the charges. Ganis has not been charged with
wrongdoing and said he was unaware of any alleged scheme.

A Cubs spokesman said Ganis works for Tribune Co., which owns
the Cubs and Wrigley, and referred questions there. A Tribune
spokesman declined comment. Harris' attorney, Terry Ekl, also
declined comment.

Ganis told the AP in January that his contact with Blagojevich's
office was limited to discussions about the Cubs.

One e-mail tells Harris, "We want to do the IFA," an apparent
reference to Tribune's interest in an Illinois Finance Authority
deal on Wrigley of $100 million or more in tax relief that
prosecutors claim Blagojevich and Harris were dangling.

But the e-mails show the ballpark wasn't the only topic. Ganis,
president of Sportscorp Ltd. in Chicago, wanted to help make
"Rod's voice" heard on an Olympics committee and sought a meeting
with Harris to pitch a business proposition, according to the
e-mails.

He said Monday that there was no conflict between his Cubs work
and advising Blagojevich and Harris, who he said sought a
"different voice."

"I'm a nonpolitical voice that is hopefully fairly well-read on
this stuff with absolutely no ax to grind and absolutely no
financial or political motivation of any kind, so very independent
and for whatever reason, they thought I spoke some sense," Ganis
said.

He added that he didn't know Harris before his involvement in
the Wrigley deal.

Signing off with, "Miss ya, buddy!" Ganis encouraged Harris on
Sept. 11 to see that Blagojevich got control of an appointment to
any committee formed to lure the Olympics to Chicago in 2016,
saying he could "help a lot and also watch out for things and be
Rod's (hopefully credible) voice."

He made a fuss when Harris apparently didn't receive a Cubs
playoffs invitation, sought to discuss with Harris a "wind power"
business, bragged that his cousin is tight with Stephen Spielberg
and offered Blagojevich and Harris a "direct pipeline" to the
Hollywood director.

Ganis told the AP he had turned down offers to serve on other
government boards. He said he had no plans to run a wind power
business himself but had an idea for one to meet state
renewable-energy goals and to create jobs and more tax revenue.

"Everything that I was involved with in that area was what
would be good for the state," Ganis said.

Ganis shows up on a Blagojevich phone log obtained by the AP - a
Sept. 19 dinner date including the governor, his wife, Ganis and a
guest. The consultant also was scheduled for an Oct. 30 meeting in
Blagojevich's office with Harris and another aide, according to
Harris' appointment calendar.

Harris resigned from his $157,000-a-year post on Dec. 12.
Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office in January.

Tribune is in final negotiations to sell the Cubs and Wrigley
Field to Chicago financier Tom Ricketts and his family, a deal
announced in January.


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