For more than 40 years, William Cellini made a successful career off of state government. So much so that he was once dubbed the 'King of Clout' by the Chicago Sun-Times.
A close confidante of former Gov. Jim Edgar and later a felonious fundraiser for ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Cellini had his hands in everything, giving colleagues and me plenty to write about over the years.
Cellini once made a successful play for one of the state's first riverboat casino licenses. He leased office buildings to the state, making millions of dollars. Once out of that, he set up a company to manage some of those same buildings, again opening a spigot of lucrative contracts for Cellini.
He set up an investment firm that later made vast windfalls off of state pension funds and, before that, led the trade association of road builders that made a fortune off of the state. He even wound up alongside Abraham Lincoln in an oil painting specially crafted for and on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which wife Julie helped develop.
But the state deal that perhaps got Cellini the most attention, most of it unwelcome, was for the hotel he helped build in downtown Springfield in 1982 with a $15.5 million state-backed loan. Cellini's investment consortium defaulted on that loan, stiffing state taxpayers for $30 million in unpaid principle and interest.
After serving a prison term for his part in a 2004 fund-raising shakedown aimed at helping Blagojevich, Cellini resurfaced in the 2014 governor's race when he gave a glowing endorsement to Gov.-to-be Bruce Rauner. Initially blindsided by Cellini's backing, Rauner's campaign later made clear the candidate wanted nothing to do with Cellini.
"The good news is we're putting this behind us. The terrible news is for a quarter century, this has been just a black eye in Illinois."
PROFILE: Cellini: state Capitol's quiet captain of clout; Dealmaker built empire working in background (10/6/1996)
Top lobbyist resigns so wife can keep job; Law says he had to go for her to stay in Lincoln library post (12/2/2003)
INVESTIGATION: Firm tied to man deep in state's debt gets fat contract; Company to invest up to $120 million in pension funds (8/16/2005)
Topinka 'furious' over firm's family ties; Treasurer blindsided by news that Cellini founded company (8/17/2005)
Gov rips Topinka's 'conflict of interest'; Questions treasurer's vote awarding funds to firm tied to Cellini (8/18/2005)
INVESTIGATION: Pension trustee voted for firm linked to ally; Millions invested with company tied to GOP powerbroker (9/6/2005)
Guv puts squeeze on hotel to pay state debt: Off-limits for most state business until $27.5 million paid (11/7/2005)
Sweetheart Springfield hotel deal over?; Clout-heavy investors haven't paid state in 5 years (1/16/2008)
EXCLUSIVE: Patti profited on Maxwell St. makeover; A part-owner in the development is under federal scrutiny (1/17/2008)
The 'piggy bank'; Treasurer accuses powerbroker of using state-funded hotel to commit fraud, line his pockets (5/19/2008)
State set to unload Abe Lincoln hotel; Auction Monday for 'debacle' that's cost taxpayers $30M (12/10/2009)
State unloads power broker's hotel boondoggle for $6.5 million (12/15/2009)
Jurors hear tape about shakedown; 'I'm sort of flying under the radar here,' Cellini says on secret recording (10/14/2011)
Cellini trial tape reveals millionaire rattled in alleged extortion (10/15/2011)
Defense argues Cellini not involved in extortion scheme (10/19/2011)
Verdict surprises pal Edgar (11/2/2011)
'Cellini' & Lincoln painting to stay; Was corrupt power broker painter's model? (11/3/2011)
INVESTIGATION: FELON CELLINI'S FAMILY STILL PROFITS OFF STATE; He's banned from state deals - but not his family's companies (1/3/2012)
EXCLUSIVE: State treasurer leasing apartment from company linked to Cellini family (1/13/2012)
Lawmaker seeks to lift veil on Cellini 'empire' (2/10/2012)
House acts on Sun-Times report (3/30/2012)
King of clout; Cellini released from prison (11/7/2013)
Out of prison, Cellini lauds Rauner (4/9/2014)
Spokesman: Rauner 'obviously renounces' Cellini (4/10/2014)