Blagojevich Campaign Donor Pleads Guilty

The Associated Press
Friday, October 27, 2006; 8:38 PM

CHICAGO -- A millionaire campaign donor for Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded guilty Friday to using his seats on two state boards in a bid to collect millions of dollars in kickbacks.

Stuart Levine's plea agreement contained no direct charge of wrongdoing on the part of the governor, who is running for re-election while coping with a federal corruption investigation.

However, Levine said in the 58-page plea agreement that he sought in April 2004 to squeeze an investment firm for $1.5 million in campaign contributions to "a certain public official" in exchange for $220 million in state pension business.

That official was Blagojevich, according to an individual familiar with the case who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The $1.5 million was never paid.

The plea deal "reveals a pattern of wrongdoing by Stuart Levine that betrayed the trust of Governor (Jim) Edgar who first appointed him and to all of us here in Illinois," Blagojevich said in a news release.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was elected four years ago as a reformer promising to clean up state government, but his administration has been mired in controversy and accused of doling out jobs and contracts to the politically connected. The governor has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. His GOP challenger, Judy Baar Topinka, has tried in TV ads to drive home the scandal.

The deal calls for Levine, 60, to be sentenced to five years and seven months in prison for one count each of mail fraud and money laundering. Without a plea agreement, Levine could have faced life in prison if convicted on all charges.

"Stuart was a very legitimate, hardworking and successful businessman before he got involved with all these boards and illegal business, but you can become intoxicated with the ether of power, the ether of money and the opportunity for more," said his lawyer, Jeffery B. Steinback.

U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve agreed to postpone sentencing until Levine has testified, if need be, against other defendants.


Associated Press Writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Associated Press