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GOP blasts Blagojevich for taking $1,500 from family friend

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Gov. Rod Blagojevich (UPI file photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Amanda Vinicky, IL Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – Republicans are calling on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to explain why he accepted money from a family friend whose wife had just gotten a state job.

The Chicago Tribune first reported that federal authorities are investigating circumstances surrounding the $1,500 check.

GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Joe Birkett says Blagojevich is hiding behind spokespeople and lawyers, but that he owes voters an explanation.

Blagojevich maintains the check was a birthday gift for his young daughter, Amy. But Birkett says the governor should make public a copy of the check.

Birkett also says his own children have never been given presents of that magnitude, and he questions what Blagojevich gave the friends in return for such a large gift.

In response, the Blagojevich campaign is accusing Birkett and Republican gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka of not being honest. The campaign says neither properly disclosed gifts they have received, as required by state ethics laws.

Birkett says neither he nor Topinka have gotten a gift valued at $500, so there's nothing to disclose.

At a brief news conference Wednesday at her Chicago campaign headquarters, Topinka said "Everyone in Illinois is talking about this, except for Rod Blagojevich."

The check came from a friend of Blagojevich's who once served as his campaign treasurer. It arrived shortly after the friend's wife was given a $45,000-a-year state job.

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