1934 - William Cellini is born, still innocent of any crime.
1968 - Gov. Richard Ogilvie appoints Cellini to run the new Illinois Department of Transportation, allowing him to pick winners, losers, contractors and future pols throughout the state.
COINCIDENCE? I think NOT!
"The epitome of a "GOOD" politician is one who remains loyal after being bought."
- - The grandfather of Chicago politics.
You probably heard of Tony Rezko, and his dealings with some junior senator from Illinois.
You probably heard of Rod Blagojevich, the recently convicted former governor of Illinois.
You may have heard of Stu Levine, the insurance broker with ties to Bill Daley, former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, and a whole horde of people in Chicago and Springfield, especially those involved in retirement funds, healthcare and construction. Levine will be in jail for a very, very long time.
You probably did NOT hear of the guy who ties them all together. William Cellini.
William Cellini, by the way, was the sugar daddy for the 2009 appointment of Ray LaHood, the current transportation czar for President Obama. LaHood, for those who forgot, was a conservative congressman from Illinois, always involved in transportation committees, subcommittees, and, well, William Cellini.
Lahood presided over Clinton's impeachment.Then again, he also thought that the Patriot Act should be repealed, proving that everyone has some good inside them. Before his election, LaHood was Bob Michel's chief of staff before he replaced him in the House. Given his transportation background, both as chief of staff and as congress critter, his connection with Cellini goes back to Cellini's DOT days.
(Dick Durbin also strongly supported LaHood's DOT appointment, being good friends since they served in the House. Cellini, however, made it happen.)
After teaching school, then losing his first two elections, Cellini finally won an election, and became involved in Springfield politics. His appointment to the I-DOT was where he truly shined.
Cellini made millions in real estate, in gambling and gaming, in road and hospital construction and in controlling who won and who lost in Illinois. To be fair, Cellini was never labelled GOP or a conservative; his access to pols crossed all aisles, all contracts, all contacts, and all Illinois projects. For 40 years, he was known as the Pope, the man who made things happen, and whose blessing you absolutely needed.
It is wrong to conclude that Cellini only favored the GOP. Especially in his later years, Cellini and Tony Rezko had multiple real estate dealings, most of which favored Democrats. At the very same time, Cellini pretty much ran the GOP, especially the DuPage county branch of the corrupt Illinois GOP Family. NOTHING happened in DuPage without Cellini's approval or OK. Nothing got built without one of his favored contractors (Both GOP and Democrat) having a piece of it. Some people laughingly refer to Michigan's Saul Anuzis and his super sized Rolodex. he has nothing on Cellini, in part because Anuzis may have their telephone number, while Cellini had their "Number."
Come to think of it, Cellini's influence extended far beyond Dupage County, and covered the entire state.
If you wanted a sewer contract in Illinois, or an asphalt bid, or concrete exit ramps, or a new hospital, or . . . . Well, anything, Cellini was your go to person.
Bloggo's election? Cellini helped. Rezko's real estate fortune? Cellini helped. Ray LaHood's appointment? Cellini. Levine's millions from state required construction bonds? Cellini. Marchese's fortune in construction? (Just so you know, Mr. Marchese is to Democrats what Cellini has been to the GOP, supporting his own party, often crossing party lines when profitable.) Cellini helped and actually partnered with him for many years, gaining millions in the process.
Cellini is now on trial for his own crimes.
(2008) A federal grand jury indicted longtime political powerbroker William Cellini of Springfield today on corruption charges alleging he was involved in a scheme to shake down companies seeking investments at the scandal-plagued Teachers Retirement System. . .
Read, listen to wiretapped conversations between Antoin "Tony" Rezko and William Cellini discussing an alleged plot to shake down Thomas Rosenberg, who is a Hollywood producer and Chicago investment manager. The tapes were played during Rezko's corruption trial earlier this year.
If there was some financial fraud being committed in Illinois, not far behind was William Cellini. If Richie Daley's Hired Truck program was corrupt, you could smell his aftershave. If hospitals, pension funds, or any other million dollar program had any local input, Mr. Cellini's shadow was already cast in front of you.
Today's Suntimes puts it best:
William Cellini amassed a fortune by keeping himself close to the state’s political stage while taking care to stand behind the curtain. His influence with Illinois governors began with Richard Ogilvie and stretched to convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
For decades, it paid off handsomely.
From landing Illinois’ first casino boat license, to road construction, to a failed hotel venture, to real estate, Cellini, long a Republican political fund-raiser, cut deal after deal tied to state business.
As executive director of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, as well as his involvement in the patronage-rich Sangamon County Republican organization, Cellini spent years doling out favors, then spent years collecting on them, said longtime Springfield political analyst Kent Redfield.