Giannoulias family loaned $20 million to felons

Does this really count as a scandal in Chicago?

The family bank of Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias loaned a pair of Chicago crime figures about $20 million during a 14-month period when Giannoulias was a senior loan officer, according to a Tribune examination that provides new details about the bank’s relationship with the convicted felons.

Broadway Bank had already lent millions to Michael Giorango when he and a new business partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, came to the bank in mid-2004. Although both men were preparing to serve federal prison terms, the bank embarked on a series of loans to them.

Alexi Giannoulias took a senior position at the bank at about the same time and used it as a launching pad for his political career. But as he campaigns to step up from state treasurer to the U.S. Senate, he has tried to distance himself from the bank’s business with the pair and has been reluctant to detail his role.

If not in Chicago, it counts as a scandal in the rest of Illinois.  Starting three years ago, I’ve been keeping tabs on the mob loans approved by Giannoulias as his family bank’s loan officer.  The family bank made a series of loans to Michael “Jaws” Giorango after the latter got convicted on federal charges relating to bookmaking and prostitution in 2004.  The loans paid for a casino fleet in Florida in 2005, an odd risk to take for someone who had a record as a pimp and a bookie.

It also qualifies as a federal scandal.  Broadway Bank is on the verge of an FDIC takeover, thanks to severe undercapitalization linked to its lending practices.  The Giannoulias family has taken almost $70 million out of the bank over the last several years, but now says they have less than $1 million to reinvest.  However, a federal rescue could put $10 million back into their pockets.  But Illinois voters should be asking what happened to the $70 million the Giannoulias family pulled out of Broadway while doing business with mobsters like Giorango.

This scandal smells bad, even for Chicago.  There’s a lot of missing money, and a years-long relationship between the family and mobsters.  It’s not unreasonable for people to conclude that those are linked — and since Broadway appears ready to get rescued with taxpayer dollars, we all have a stake in getting the answers.

Seriously, though — what were Illinois Democrats thinking when they backed Giannoulias?  This makes Jack Ryan’s divorce papers look like a letter to the editor.