The firm, which is under investigation for conspiring with investment banks to sell states, cities and other public works programs pricey interest rate swaps, did all the right things: its lobbyist Bob Stratton, who was also a senior political advisor to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, hired Blago's top fundraiser Milan Petrovic to help them get meetings with top Illinois debt and budget officials in 2004 and 2005. But CDR got scant business in the state, which never used it as an advisor or consultant on any major deal.
Chicago-area firms are involved in other state's pay-to-play scandals. Loop Capital Markets, a boutique investment bank that used to employ Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson, was involved and recorded by the FBI -- though never accused of wrongdoing -- in a Philadelphia pay-to-play scheme that landed the city treasurer in federal prison. Vanderbilt Capital Group, another Chicago firm, sold the New Mexico teachers' pension funds and State Investment Council a controversial $90 million CDR with the $2 million placement agent services of a Richardson ally named Marc Correra. And Correra earned several million of at least $13.5 million in finder's fees he collected securing New Mexico pension fund investments operating under the auspices of a Chicago firm called Cabrera Capital Markets. Cabrera counted Illinois as a client, though it did not appear to be a major one in the Blago era.
Where there's so much smoke -- and so many federal agents on the case -- one might expect fire, but perhaps the Blago crew -- which, after all, holds the distinction of allegedly sharing the spoils of its scheme with a Republican lobbyist -- was too insular to involve itself in the larger national scheme. We expect we'll find out soon enough.