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Originally published Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Blagojevich's wife being investigated for real-estate dealings

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has some close company in his misery. His arrest this week on corruption charges also turned a spotlight on Patti Blagojevich, his wife and a mother of two. Illinois' first lady may have been introduced to the public by profanity-laced tirades as outlined by federal prosecutors, but she already was being investigated for her real-estate dealings.

The Associated Press

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod Blagojevich has some close company in his misery.

His arrest this week on corruption charges also turned a spotlight on Patti Blagojevich, his wife and a mother of two. Illinois' first lady may have been introduced to the public by profanity-laced tirades as outlined by federal prosecutors, but she already was being investigated for her real-estate dealings.

Federal prosecutors Tuesday laid out their accusations of a money grab by Blagojevich, saying he plotted to sell President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat. And in the 76-page criminal complaint against him, his 43-year-old wife emerged as a woman who schemed to cash in on her husband's job and punish those who got in her way.

She has not been charged with wrongdoing, and she has not spoken publicly since her husband's arrest.

However, according to the complaint, she was the voice in the background spewing an ugly suggestion to "just fire" some newspaper editors if the Tribune hoped for state assistance to sell Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.

"Hold up that (expletive) Cubs (expletive)," she says as her husband is talking on the telephone. "(Expletive) them."

There she was in full support, according to the complaint, of her husband's suggestion that the price of the governor naming a replacement for Obama's Senate seat include a six-figure seat on a corporate board.

But in Illinois, those accusations mark the latest chapter in what may be considered a quintessential Chicago story. Patti Blagojevich is a key player in a family drama between two powerful politicians — her husband and her father, Richard Mell — and her lucrative real-estate deals have raised questions about whether her position as first lady helped her make a lot of money.

Mell was a powerful Chicago alderman who held a fundraiser in the late 1980s. Hoping to drum up business for his practice, Rod Blagojevich attended and met Patti Mell. The two married in 1990.

Two years later, Mell used his political ties to get 200 soldiers to campaign for his son-in-law. Blagojevich ended up beating a powerful incumbent to win the state-representative post, setting in motion a career that would take him to Congress and in 2002 to the governor's mansion.

Patti Blagojevich appeared to be a woman who knew her priorities and would not let working at her real-estate brokerage firm interfere with raising the couple's two daughters.

She "knows exactly what comes first in her life," read the headline in a glowing 2005 Chicago Tribune profile.

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But before that story ran, Patti Blagojevich was in the middle of a public feud between her husband and her father that largely stemmed from the governor's shutting down of a landfill run by a distant relative of her mother.

Mell was incensed, saying his son-in-law was willing to "throw anyone under the bus."

Until Tuesday, the most recent news stories about Patti Blagojevich were those that raised questions about her business dealings.

In 2005, for example, a published report said she received nearly $50,000 from a real-estate deal three years earlier involving Antoin "Tony" Rezko. In June, Rezko was convicted of using clout with the Blagojevich administration to help launch a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme.

As for Patti Blagojevich's father, Richard Mell declined to comment for this story. On Tuesday he said: "My main concern now is for my daughter and my grandchildren."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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