Ali Ata used to be an obscure figure in the wide-ranging federal probe of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's hiring, contracting and fundraising practices. On Tuesday, he became perhaps the strongest witness the feds have in their prosecution of Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko -- and in their investigation of Blagojevich himself.
Play of the Week
Ali Ata used to be an obscure figure in the wide-ranging federal probe of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's hiring, contracting and fundraising practices.
On Tuesday, he became perhaps the strongest witness the feds have in their prosecution of Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko -- and in their investigation of Blagojevich himself.
Ata, a former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying to an FBI agent about Rezko's role in getting Ata his state job.
Ata said he met Blagojevich at Rezko's Chicago office in 2002 and gave the governor a check for $25,000. The governor "expressed his pleasure and acknowledged that the defendant had been a good supporter and good friend," Ata said. The governor then "asked Rezko if he [Rezko] had talked to the defendant about positions in the administration, and Rezko responded that he had," Ata said.
Ata subsequently gave Blagojevich's campaign another $25,000. When Ata met Blagojevich at a 2003 fundraiser, Ata said the governor told him that when he joins the administration, "It had better be a job where [Ata] could make some money."
Blagojevich arrived late for the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast and left quickly after delivering a speech regarding the need to pass a capital bill and for bipartisanship in the Legislature. For his closing remarks, he quoted a Hank Williams song.
"You never stood in that man's shoes or saw things through his eyes or watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies," Blagojevich said, paraphrasing Williams' song, "Men with Broken Hearts." "So help your brother along the way no matter where he starts because the same God that made you made him, too. These men with broken hearts."
Quote of Note
"Leadership isn't having a big title or flying around in an airplane. And it isn't fighting. As Dwight Eisenhower once said: 'You do not lead by hitting people over the head -- that's assault, not leadership,' " Illinois comptroller Dan Hynes said in a speech Wednesday at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, where he lamented state government's "leadership deficit."
Number to Know
20. The amount of minutes Blagojevich spent at the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday.
Tuesday, April 29 is when members of the Illinois General Assembly return to Springfield after taking off a week.
Compiled by the State Capitol Bureau