In new book, former aide says he posed as Rod Blagojevich on national security call governor refused to take

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A former top aide to Rod Blagojevich once impersonated the then-governor to “declare a state of emergency” on a federal Department of Homeland Security disaster drill conference call, perhaps foretelling the fate of Illinois under the imprisoned former governor, a new book says.

Former Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk, currently an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who served under Blagojevich from 2003 to 2006, describes the scene in his new book, “The Fixer,” about his life and the intersection of politics and startups. His five-year work as Uber’s first political strategist followed his career in Illinois government.

Tusk’s book is published by Portfolio/Penguin Random House and will go on sale Sept. 18. Billed as a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs, it also details what he calls “the lessons startups need to learn to punch back and survive the clutches of politics.”

It also adds to the lore of the now-imprisoned and disgraced former governor who, joined by his wife, Patti, have lobbied President Donald Trump for a commutation of his 14-year federal corruption sentence. The Tribune was provided an advance copy.

“I was still a naive kid. I didn’t understand the cesspool of Illinois politics. I didn’t know the players. And in retrospect, a few things were conspicuously absent from my job portfolio: hiring, grants and contracts,” he wrote.

“If you’re looking to execute a massive pay-to-play scheme — auctioning off jobs, contracts and grants to the biggest campaign donors — it’s all you care about. Rod and his cronies figured they could do what they wanted — and let me worry about running the state — and I’d never notice,” he wrote.

But, Tusk wrote, he did notice in one instance which also required him to testify at Blagojevich’s trials. Tusk said the governor was holding up grant money for a school in the congressional district of then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor, because Emanuel’s agent brother, Ari, owed Blagojevich a fundraiser.

Tusk said he did not contact Emanuel but spoke with Wyma and the governor’s legal counsel to warn them of the pay-to-play request and he resigned as deputy governor a month later. The fundraiser was never held.

“I was able to preserve my own freedom and reputation,” Tusk wrote. “It’s never fun fighting with your boss, especially when you work for someone a little (well, maybe a lot) crazy like Rod Blagojevich. But the alternative was far, far worse.”

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August 30, 2018 at 11:49AM

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