Blagojevich Witness Loses His Job, Helps Put Chicago on America's "Census Drama" Map | Bleader

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blagojevich Witness Loses His Job, Helps Put Chicago on America's "Census Drama" Map

Posted By on 06.29.10 at 10:00 AM

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  • The Pizza Review @ Flickr.com
A couple of weeks ago, Joseph Aramanda had a management job at the U.S. Census Bureau's Chicago office, overseeing a reported 1,000 employees. Then he testified in the corruption trial of ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and received some press attention for his alleged role as a "middleman" in money transfers said to have benefited Blagojevich and Everybody's Prison Friend, Tony Rezko.

Now Aramanda's in a "non-working status pending further action," says Burton Reist, the bureau's assistant director for communications.

According to the Associated Press, Aramanda spent his time on the witness stand answering prosecutors' questions about $600,000 he received from Bear Stearns lobbyist Robert Kjellander. "Aramanda testified that the money was a loan arranged by Rezko to help prop up his ailing pizza restaurants," AP reports. "But he acknowledged that on Rezko's orders he immediately sent most of the money to a group of Rezko associates."

Reist would not provide any additional details about Aramanda's job(less) status, but it's not unthinkable that he was ousted for his Blago testimony. In a June 17 letter, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) wrote U.S. Census Director ("Census Czar" in Fox Newspeak) Robert Groves that Aramanda's employment with the bureau was "unacceptable." McHenry serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee for Information Policy, Census, and National Archives. The nation's decennial count-em-up, McHenry wrote, "is too important to be caught up in a corruption trial. Mr. Aramanda manages a significant number of employees and his deep involvement in the Blagojevich scandal tarnishes the reputation of the 2010 Census." He then called for Groves to "reassess" Aramanda's employment status. In short, Aramanda's pizza experience must not have sufficiently impressed the judges (maybe his pizza wasn't very good?).

If you read the comments under McHenry's letter, republished on the census-centric blog MyTwoCensus.com, you'll spot the anonymous tip that led to this post. Promoted by its editor, Stephen Robert Morse, as "the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census," MyTwoCensus has generated a fair amount of criticism in recent weeks for its flashes of anti-census rhetoric—including Morse's promise to send weekly batches of FOIAs for bureau employees to answer just to "let them do some work." Morse called for Aramanda's firing, and today posted details.

With its insider politics plot line, the Aramanda hire-and-fire is an appropriately Chicago contribution to the pile of census drama stories that started growing last summer, when Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared she wouldn't participate at all because she is afraid of internment camps. And since May, when census workers started visiting people's homes to gather information, several have encountered angry Real Americans brandishing pickaxes, guns, and other weapons. Just the other day, in fact, a guy in Alaska threatened a census worker with a bulldozer. The bulldozer-er is named "Bliss." At least life hasn't lost its sense of humor or irony.

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