Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wife received the real estate commission in a $650,000 condominium sale from a businessman who since has won $10 million in no-bid state contracts.
The seller was Mark T. Wight, owner of Wight & Company, an architecture firm that won three new contracts with the state's toll highway authority after the 2005 sale. The buyer was John R. Wyma, Wight's tollway lobbyist and a longtime Blagojevich insider.
It is the third time the Tribune has disclosed similar commissions earned by the first lady and her home-based real estate business, revealing a steady income to the Blagojevich household from key political supporters, fundraisers and state contractors.
The governor's chief spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the deal, but said Patricia Blagojevich earned "a standard commission for her work."
A standard commission ranges from 4 percent to 6 percent, which would put her fee between $26,000 and $39,000 since she was the only real estate agent in the deal.
"She has been friends with John Wyma for many years," Abby Ottenhoff said in a written statement Thursday, "so it was natural that he would seek her services when he was looking for a new condominium.
"She worked with him for over a year and handled the negotiations, closing and contract documents for Mr. Wyma."
The disclosure of the deal provides another example of the governor benefiting -- both personally and politically -- from people seeking business or influence with his administration.
The revelations also pose political problems for Blagojevich, whose administration is besieged by multiple criminal investigations into allegations that government business, jobs and other favors were traded for campaign donations.
Patricia Blagojevich has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The governor and his wife have declined to personally answer questions or provide a detailed accounting of Patricia Blagojevich's real estate income and clients. In his only comment on the matter to the Tribune, the governor last year called the questions "Neanderthal" and "sexist."
Real estate records show the Wicker Park condominium was never officially listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service, a nationwide market listing commonly used by agents.
Patricia Blagojevich had been house-hunting for Wyma for months. But Wyma and Wight found each other without Blagojevich's help. Still, Wight said, he decided to pay her the commission anyway.
"When I talked with John about his interest in my condominium it was clear to me he had been working with a real estate agent for months," Wight said in a written response. "I had always intended to pay a commission to an agent, regardless of who that agent was.
"I later learned that John was working with Patti Blagojevich."
The deal closed Jan. 7, 2005.
The day before the closing, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority approved a no-bid, $2 million contract with Wight & Company for various tollway design services. That contract was later increased to $2.5 million.
Since then, Wight has been awarded two more contracts totaling $7.5 million for inspection services and design work on the tollway. None of the contracts were competitively bid. State law allows no-bid deals for professional services.
Tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis said Wight has been a tollway contractor going back 15 years and said the latest contracts had nothing to do with the real estate deal. Rather, she said, the company got more work because of its good reputation and because the tollway was embarking on a major expansion.
The tollway's board of directors approves major contracts. Board members and the tollway's executive director are appointed by the governor.
"I'm proud of the work that Wight's engineers have done for the tollway over the past 30 years," Wight said in a written response to questions. "I'm particularly proud of their work on the recent expansion and upgrade of the system."
Wight also has received about $2.5 million in contracts from agencies that report directly to the governor since Blagojevich took office. His firm has donated nearly $100,000 to Blagojevich's campaign since 2002.
Wyma and Blagojevich have shared a close personal and professional relationship for more than a decade. Wyma became the first chief of staff for Blagojevich after he was elected a Northwest Side congressman in 1996 and soon became one of Blagojevich's closest political advisers.
The two remained close even after Wyma left in 2000. About a year later he returned as political director for Blagojevich's 2002 campaign for governor. After the victory, Wyma registered as a state lobbyist while remaining a member of Blagojevich's "kitchen cabinet" of advisers and one of the biggest fundraisers for the governor's campaign fund.
Wyma has repeatedly turned up as the lobbyist for groups that would benefit from some of the governor's most high-profile proposals, from new gambling to expanded health care.
Wyma declined to be interviewed for this report.
Patricia Blagojevich's real estate deals with power brokers close to her husband first came under scrutiny in 2005 when the Tribune disclosed her eight-year business relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a Chicago developer who became one of the governor's top fundraisers and a member of his kitchen cabinet.
Rezko was indicted last year on unrelated federal charges of soliciting kickbacks from firms seeking state business.
She also earned more than $113,000 in real estate commissions in 2006 through Anita Mahajan, owner of a now-defunct drug testing company, who has been indicted on charges she defrauded state taxpayers of more than $2 million.
Mahajan's husband, Amrish, is a Chicago-area banker who has helped raise more than $500,000 for Blagojevich's campaign fund.
The governor has repeatedly said his administration sets high ethical standards. But he has not answered questions about revelations that federal agents have examined his family's personal finances and subpoenaed records from his campaign fund.
The governor and his wife annually release their joint income tax returns, which separately reflect his government salary as well as her salary and profits she receives from her company, River Realty Inc. But it is difficult to determine the extent of Patricia Blagojevich's real estate dealings because they won't release her business' tax records, saying her private dealings have nothing to do with state government.
"Patti Blagojevich has been a successful businesswoman and real estate broker since long before she married the governor," Ottenhoff said.
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