SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich met with a top union official in his Chicago office the day before Barack Obama was elected president — just as federal prosecutors say the governor was scheming to trade Obama's Senate seat, possibly for a cushy union job, Blagojevich's official calendar shows.
The meeting with Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, also was attended by Tom Balanoff, president of the Illinois chapter of the union, which has been Blagojevich's largest campaign contributor.
The governor's schedules, released Tuesday to The Associated Press, shed new light on the governor's activities in a period outlined in a criminal complaint that accuses the Democrat of a wide-ranging scheme to personally profit from official action, such as selling Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat and pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire unfriendly editorial writers.
Other entries on Blagojevich's calendars for September, October, November and December include the governor attending a party for Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell, who is trying to sell the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, lunch with the Cubs' general manager and a meeting with a wealthy former Senate candidate .
Some of the people who appear on the schedules are also referenced by pseudonyms in the complaint, which details conversations Blagojevich had on secretly recorded phone calls and meetings with top aides, lobbyists and contributors in the months leading up to his Dec. 9 arrest.
Blagojevich has denied wrongdoing.
The documents raise questions about the involvement of top officials at SEIU, which has given Blagojevich $1.8 million for his two gubernatorial campaigns.
Prosecutors allege one of Blagojevich's plans was to use his power to appoint a Senate replacement for Obama to get a six-figure job with "Change to Win," an SEIU-affiliated political action group.
Aside from the Nov. 3 meeting with Stern and Balanoff, the calendar shows Blagojevich was scheduled to sit down with Balanoff on Nov. 6 and Nov. 24.
Stern has said he was unaware of any scheme and has declined to discuss meetings with Blagojevich.
"As we have previously stated, no one at SEIU has been accused of any wrongdoing and SEIU is fully cooperating with the U.S. attorney's investigation into the governor's conduct," SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said Tuesday. She declined further comment, citing the ongoing federal investigation.
Balanoff is mentioned in Obama's report on his transition team's contacts with the Illinois governor. The report says Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Balanoff discussed the notion that Blagojevich could be appointed Health and Human Services secretary, which Jarrett dismissed as "ridiculous."
However, there was never any suggestion in the conversation that Blagojevich was linking the Senate appointment to the possible Cabinet posting, the report states.
Blagojevich also had scheduled September meetings with former Senate candidate Blair Hull and J.B. Pritzker, the brother of a close adviser to Obama. He attended a party Sept. 27 for Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell and had lunch Nov. 21 with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.
Federal prosecutors claim in a 76-page criminal complaint that Blagojevich and his former chief of staff were caught on wiretapped recordings plotting to trade Obama's vacant Senate seat for campaign contributions or a high-paying job for him or his wife. The scheme also included putting the arm on the Tribune before giving the company a grant to help Zell sell Wrigley Field, the Cubs' home.
Authorities say Blagojevich was trying to raise as much as $2.5 million for his campaign fund before a stricter campaign finance law took effect Jan. 1.
Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed some of the meetings but said he did not know whether others on the calendar took place.
Most of the meetings on the calendar were at the second-term governor's office in Chicago's Loop. Federal prosecutors have said they wiretapped Blagojevich's campaign office and home phone but there's no indication there are recordings of conversations from the government office.
Authorities say there were six people, who are unidentified in the complaint, whom Blagojevich was considering for the Senate position. One, referred to only as "Senate Candidate 6," is a "wealthy person from Illinois" who, Blagojevich allegedly said, "could raise me money."
The schedule shows Blagojevich met on Sept. 8 with Blair Hull, an independently wealthy businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2004 — the seat that Obama eventually won. The schedule also indicates the meeting was attended by "Lon," an apparent reference to former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk, who appears in the complaint as "Lobbyist 1." Authorities acknowledge Monk's phone was tapped, too.
None of the unidentified people in the complaint has been charged with wrongdoing.
On Sept. 2, Blagojevich was scheduled to have breakfast with investor J.B. Pritzker, whose sister is Obama supporter Penny Pritzker.
Guerrero said he knew nothing about the Hull and Pritzker meetings. Hull declined comment through a spokeswoman. Pritzker did not return a call Tuesday, but an aide told the AP last month Pritzker is not Senate Candidate 6.
Guerrero confirmed that Blagojevich attended the Sept. 27 party for Zell, who took over the Tribune. Prosecutors say wiretaps caught Blagojevich and his aides scheming to trade a government grant involving Wrigley Field, which Zell was seeking to sell, for the jobs of editorial writers who had been advocating impeaching the governor.
A Tribune spokesman declined comment because of the ongoing criminal investigation.
Cubs spokesman Jason Carr said he didn't know who initiated the meeting between GM Hendry and Blagojevich at Wrigley Field on Nov. 21, before the two adjourned for lunch at Harry Caray's Tavern. But Carr said the sale of Wrigley Field is not part of Hendry's official concern, and doubts the subject came up.
"They talked about baseball," Carr said.
The calendar also includes an Oct. 23 meeting between Blagojevich and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whom the governor enlisted last winter to try to convince the Legislature to adopt a huge capital construction plan.
The complaint has a brief reference to "Individual C" as a former congressman aiding Blagojevich with the capital plan, but accuses him of no wrongdoing.
Hastert said Tuesday the meeting Oct. 23 was to discuss ways to revive the failed program. The Republican said he doesn't know whether he is Individual C.