Developer Can’t Dodge Zoning Plot Conviction

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit declined to overturn the conviction of a real estate developer convicted of bribing an alderman to secure favorable land zoning designations.
     Developer Calvin Boender bought a 50-acre parcel of Chicago’s Armitage Industrial Corridor known as Galewood Yards in 2000. The parcel, zoned at the time for manufacturing, was the city’s largest undeveloped tract of land.
     Though Boender wanted to build a full-service retail and residential community on the land, Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development was preparing to designate the corridor as a planned manufacturing district.
     That designation would lock in the property’s manufacturing zoning status, preventing Boender’s development.
     Boender and his wife tried to block the zoning plan by aggressively lobbying local alderman Isaac “Ike” Carothers.
     The couple donated $2,000 each to the congressional campaign of Carothers’s aunt, Anita-Rivkin Carothers. Boender also asked two other associates to donate $2,000 and agreed to reimburse them.
     But Boender did not stop there. In 2004, he spent approximately $38,000 on painting, windows, air conditioning and home repairs for Carothers.
     Carothers’s influence helped Boender secure an additional parcel of land, as well as some favorable zoning designations. Boender allegedly made $3 million from the deal.
     The ride ended with an August 2007 grand jury subpoena. Prosecutors documented how Boender tried to cover the scandal by fabricating a $38,000 invoice from a defunct company he had once owned.
     Boender was convicted of bribery, exceeding federal campaign contribution limits through straw-man donations and endeavoring to obstruct justice. His appeal met little sympathy in the 7th Circuit.
     The three-judge panel rejected Boender’s argument that prosecutors needed to establish a specific quid pro quo to prove bribery.
     “Absent any reasons to reconsider our precedent – and indeed in light of the clear statutory text – we conclude that the government was not required to establish a specific quid pro quo of money in exchange for a legislative act,” Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-member panel.
     The court went on to uphold Boender’s campaign contribution conviction, rejecting the argument that federal law allows “straw-man” donations in which a donor is reimbursed to dodge personal contribution limits. Boender had argued that federal campaign finance law only outlaws contributions under a false name.
     “Straw man contributions undermine the goal of complete and accurate disclosure of the contributors who finance federal elections just as much (if not more) than false name contributions,” Manion wrote.
     “Congress unambiguously criminalized both straw man and false name contributions,” he added.
     With all convictions affirmed, Boender will begin a 46-month sentence on Aug. 31.
     Carothers is serving 28 month after pleading guilty in June to taking bribes. He must also complete 200 hours of community service and pay restitution.

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