Kadner: The Great Ragu’s stench and Illinois politics
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 June 21, 2012 8:16PM
Raghuveer Nayak — a former campaign fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) who was also a key figure in the Rod Blagojevich scandal, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday, June 20, 2012 after a court hearing. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:46AM
It seems to me people are missing the point about Raghuveer Nayak.
On Wednesday, Nayak was indicted on federal charges that he bribed doctors to send patients to surgical centers he owned.
Nayak, however, is best known in Illinois as the fellow who allegedly offered a bribe to Gov. Rod Blagojevich to purchase a U.S. Senate seat for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The congressman has denied ever authorizing anyone to offer a bribe for the Senate seat on his behalf.
Jackson (D-2nd) once described Nayak to me as a sort of humorous blowhard, a self-important fellow who always had big plans but who nobody took seriously.
That was before it was revealed that Nayak told FBI agents that he arranged flights for a woman, whom Jackson later described as a “social acquaintance,” between Washington, D.C., and Chicago so she could visit Jackson.
That was before Jackson told congressional investigators that Nayak was a friend who often visited his congressional office in Washington. Sometimes they went out for drinks and dined together.
If you trust a person to not tell your wife about a lady friend, I think you would trust him with just about anything.
Still, Robert Blagojevich, the governor’s brother, also described Nayak as sort of a fool when he testified while on trial with his brother for having a role in trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat. He compared Nayak to a “Keystone Kop,” one of a group of incompetent policemen featured in silent films who often stumbled into each other and fell down while chasing criminals.
That’s why he didn’t take seriously the multimillion-dollar bribe offer ($1 million up front, $5 million later) that Nayak presented, Robert Blagojevich testified.
But in a conversation tape-recorded by the FBI, the governor told his brother to get in touch with the people who offered money for appointing Jackson to the Senate.
Robert replies that he will phone them. Rod warns against using the phone, saying the whole world may be listening. Talk to them in person.
Once again, it seems that Nayak the blowhard is being taken very seriously.
Although he was at the very center of the Senate seat bribery case against Gov. Blagojevich, Nayak was never called as a prosecution witness. He was never called as a defense witness.
Nobody trusted the guy. Both sides apparently feared that Nayak would be revealed as a liar or worse.
The federal government had begun its investigation into Nayak’s surgical centers and the bribes he was allegedly offering doctors to refer patients there.
What surprises me is how often people get lost in the legal technicalities of cases involving people such as Nayak and how the big picture gets lost.
Nayak was close to Jackson and his family, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He organized fundraisers and hung out with major politicians and their campaign staffs.
And one thing seems clear — Nayak is a sleazeball.
While covering the trials of both former Gov. George Ryan and Blagojevich, I repeatedly pointed out that whether or not a guilty verdict was returned, both men surrounded themselves with people who were slime.
There’s only one reason you do that, and it has nothing at all to do with good government.
Congressman Jackson has repeatedly and vehemently denied that he ever had anything to do with a bribe in exchange for a Senate seat.
At this point, I don’t care. I leave that sort of stuff to judges and juries and congressional ethics committees.
I do care that Jackson chose the Great Ragu to be his confidant, his drinking buddy and his travel agent for his “social acquaintance.”
There are good, honest, hard-working people all over America, but time and again our elected officials choose to associate with shady, dishonest characters who are willing to bend the law, break the law and raise campaign cash.
You and I would hope that the day Nayak stepped into Jackson’s office or home for the first time, the congressman would have told him, “Follow the slime trail you left on your way in and never come back again.”
Jackson didn’t. Blagojevich didn’t. That in itself is unacceptable.
Jackson still doesn’t seem to understand that his association with Nayak tells us a lot about the congressman’s character. He thinks it’s all about the court system and ethics committees.
No one has convicted him of anything, he will tell you.
The politicians would say you little people just don’t understand what it’s like in their world.
I think we do. And it’s rotten to the core.