Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tristano Cops a Plea

Today, former Republican operative Mike Tristano signed a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. In it, he accepted responsibility for "a scheme to defraud the state of Illinois and...[his] honest services," during as time as chief of staff to then House minority leader Lee Daniels. Tristano was charged with mail fraud.

According to the plea bargain, Tristano "used state resources to subsidize political campaigns" and "supervised the campaign activity." It also says that he gave employees paid leave to conceal the campaign work and signed phony travel vouchers, leading to the mail fraud charge. The plea agreement says nothing about his former boss other than that Tristano "reported to and took direction from" Daniels. The former chief of staff faces up to five years in prison and as much as two hundred fifty thousand in fines.

Tristano himself has made over one hundred ten thousand dollars in contributions to state candidates since 1994. (See here for Tristano's contributions.) This includes almost thirteen thousand($12,900) to Friends of Lee Daniels. According to the plea bargain, between one hundred twenty and two hundred thousand dollars in state money were "diverted" to the campaigns of Republican House members.

Daniels has not been charged, and it is unclear if Tristano will cooperate with investigators and incriminate his former boss. Any testimony Tristano gave would start a domino effect, and Daniels and other members would probably be charged, as well. Now that the former Leader has announced his retirement at the end of this term(some say because he feared indictment), Tristano may feel freer to talk. Hey, Scott Fawell did it.

(See here for the plea bargain.)

Hat tip: Capitol Fax


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