One of the stranger stories of corruption in the sleazy saga of Rod Blagojevich was his attempt to get control of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. Blagojevich wanted to stop the critcism of his administration, and saw the potential sale of Wrigley Field as a lever for accomplishing that goal. At the time, it looked like the height of arrogance — an elected official dictating how newspapers should cover him, and (ab)using his official power to ensure it.
When the federal charges exposed that part of the scandal, many of us wondered where Blagojevich got the idea he could get away with it. As it turns out, he may have gotten the idea from the Tribune itself:
A sports business consultant hired by Tribune Co. to help with the possible sale of Wrigley Field to the state commiserated over declining newspaper quality with a top aide to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and also sought a potential spot on Chicago’s 2016 Olympic panel to help the now ousted Illinois governor, e-mails released Monday showed.
Marc Ganis was retained by Tribune Co. officials and dealt with the Blagojevich administration over possible attempts by the state to help the company structure the sale of Wrigley Field. Tribune Co. owns the Cubs, the ballpark and the Chicago Tribune. …
In an exchange of e-mails between Ganis and Harris on the day prior to the arrests of the governor and his chief of staff, Ganis provided Harris with a copy of a news story noting Tribune Co. had filed for bankruptcy. Harris responded, “Lousy product. Inevitable.”
“I feel what you are saying,” Ganis responded to Harris. “It’s not just the Chicago Tribune (and your comments are completely understandable). The whole newspaper industry has gone downhill and now we are seeing the effects of decades of monopolistic, insulated, ivory tower, ‘I buy ink by the barrel so what I say is right’ attitude.”
Well, we in the blogosphere say the exact same thing about the industry, but none of us get hired by newspapers as consultants. Ganis worked for the Tribune while making these statements to John Harris, Blagojevich’s chief of staff. One might have thought that Ganis would not go out of his way to demean the people employing him to liaison between Tribune and the governor’s office.
By this time, though, Ganis clearly had other priorities. He had pressed Blagojevich’s staff to get an appointment on the 2016 Olympics committee if Chicago won the games, making him more dependent on Blagojevich than the Tribune. The effort to get a capital appropriation through the legislature failed, but clearly Ganis wanted to ingratiate himself with the Blagojevich crowd.
Knowing that, what could Ganis give Blagojevich? Maybe some help on shuffling the editorial board? Blagojevich’s demand begins to look a little less like arrogance and more like opportunism.
Update: Forgot the link to the ChiTrib story. Give them credit for reporting this, too.