From his meticulously tailored suits to his crisp, white shirts and silky, blue power ties, Rod Blagojevich shows up at his corruption trial each day looking like a million bucks. Actually, as it turns out, the cost of that sartorial splendor is closer to $400,000.
That, according to testimony Thursday from a government financial analyst, was how much the Blagojevich family spent on clothes over the nearly seven years he was either governor or running for the job — more than for food, their home mortgage or private-school tuition for their two daughters.
Prosecutors sought to portray Blagojevich as the Imelda Marcos of Illinois on the same day that they played wiretaps of him complaining loudly and profanely that he might not be able to afford college for his girls. He claimed that sacrifices he had to make as governor wrecked his wife's real estate business and left the family's finances in shambles.
That said, the government presented testimony indicating that the Blagojeviches' extravagant lifestyle was in part fueled by questionable income brought in by former first lady Patti Blagojevich through her real estate firm, River Realty.
Witnesses suggested that she was essentially a ghost payroller at the development firm headed by convicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who funneled tens of thousands of dollars to Patti Blagojevich for doing next to nothing. The defense argues vehemently that she earned every penny she got.
Blagojevich, who once famously attacked criticism of his wife's real estate business as "Neanderthal and sexist," had no visible reaction in court as prosecutors presented their most direct assault to date on his wife.
Two officials who worked at Rezko's development firm, Rezmar, said that payments made to Patti Blagojevich for real estate work were suspicious at best. One testified that he was asked to dummy up a commission for Patti Blagojevich.
Robert Williams, once the chief financial officer of Rezmar, said Rezko came to him in the summer of 2003 to ask about cutting Patti Blagojevich a $15,000 check. Williams said he was told to find a pending Rezmar real estate transaction with which to link her name.
Williams said he found one in a recent sale of property on Ogden Avenue and, per instructions, cooked the books to make it appear that Patti Blagojevich's firm had earned a brokerage commission on the transaction.
Was she "involved ... in any way?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton.
"No," said Williams.
Rezmar consultant Michael Winter also testified about the circuitous route of a $40,000 lump sum payment from one suspicious Rezmar property sale that eventually found its way into the Blagojevich family's checking account on the same day they wrote checks for nearly the same amount to contractors renovating their home.
Even factoring in that financial boost, Internal Revenue Service agent Shari Schindler testified that Blagojevich and his wife were living way beyond their means. By August of 2008, four months before his arrest, the Blagojeviches were floating more than $90,000 in outstanding credit card debt and were $220,000 in the red on a home-equity loan, said Schindler, who analyzed the couple's finances.
Prosecutors contend that Blagojevich grew obsessed in late 2008 with schemes to profit off of his power to fill President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat, and the evidence about the governor's lavish spending habits points to a critical reason why.
Perhaps nothing explains Blagojevich's financial problems more than his love of fine suits. Blagojevich dropped $205,707 alone with Oxxford, the Near West Side custom tailor known around the world for its handmade suits that cost thousands of dollars each.
As governor, he would sometimes spend hours at a time during the workweek at Oxxford, former aides have said. Blagojevich even arranged a state job for the Oxxford executive who handled the governor's tailoring account.
Credit card statements entered into evidence by prosecutors showed that Blagojevich or his wife on many occasions charged thousands of dollars at a time with high-end clothiers or shoe stores. They also later returned many of those items. In January 2005, for example, more than $12,000 worth of clothing was returned to Saks Fifth Avenue.
In another month, Blagojevich charged $12,000 in clothes and $81 in toys.
As Schindler outlined the spending habits of the Blagojeviches, she noted that the family managed to dig themselves in a deep hole even while not having to shell out a penny for one of the most common of household expenses — transportation. The family got around in state-owned vehicles chauffeured by a state-paid security detail.
All the discussion of the Blagojeviches' bleak financial picture came as the jury heard yet another tape of Rod Blagojevich complaining about his money woes and that "I'm stuck in this (expletive) job as governor now."
The Nov. 10, 2008, conference call included both Blagojeviches and a group of advisers who suggested some of the governor's ideas to trade the potential appointment of Obama friend Valerie Jarrett for a Cabinet post or ambassadorship were unrealistic.
"I mean he's not gonna trade Valerie for his reputation," adviser Bill Knapp said. "Presidents don't do that."
Still, Blagojevich complained about being fearful of not being able to pay for his daughters' college, saying he was "screwing" his family. He wouldn't give Obama his Senate choice for nothing, he said again.
"(Expletive) him," he said.
Also testifying for the government Thursday was David Keahl, the Illinois official in charge of ethics training for state workers under a showcase reform program championed by Blagojevich during his first year in office.
Keahl said Blagojevich as governor underwent annual ethics training along with thousands of other state employees. On the stand, he read excerpts from an ethics manual distributed to state employees. It included a message from Blagojevich himself.
"Dear state employee," it read. "You and I carry a vital responsibility: protecting the public trust.
"When I became governor of this great state," Blagojevich wrote, "one of my most urgent goals was to return honor to public service and restore our citizens' trust in their government."