Mitt's presidential ambitions may meet their Waterloo in the Big Mitten and if they do, Mitt might have Bob to thank.
That's because Romney and Bob Ficano, the Wayne County executive who is caught in the crosshairs of an FBI corruption probe, have a certain friend in common -- John Rakolta.
Rakolta is a prominent Detroit developer whose company Walbridge won a $300 million contract last summer to build the new Wayne County jail.
In turns out Rakolta is Romney's co-national finance chairman.
The Rakolta connection couldn't come at a worse time for Romney, whose commanding lead in his boyhood state of Michigan has shriveled to a statistical tie with Rick Santorum.
The feds are investigating a pattern of pay-to-play in the jail deal and have subpoenaed the county's records in connection with Walbridge. As it happens, Rakolta has been a contributor to the Democrat Ficano, a member of Ficano's finance host committee, and a $25,000 contributor to a non-profit business group know as Edge Opportunities that paid Turkia Mullin to lobby the county development czar.
Who was the county development czar in charge of the jail project? Turkia Mullin. She is also a focus of the federal investigation.
We caught Romney on the stump Thursday and asked him about his close friend Rakolta, who remains on his campaign.
"My understanding is he's helping in the investigation, not a target of it. So there's no culpability on his side so far as I'm aware," Romney said. "He's helping in an investigation as one of the witnesses against potential wrongdoing as far as I understand."
Well, not exactly.
Rakolta, who for some reason was out of town when Romney appeared in Michigan, sent me this statement:
"The federal government has not contacted Walbridge or me regarding its ongoing investigation of Wayne County, nor have we received any subpoenas."
Now I went to public school, but it seems to me the two statements just don't add up.
Is Rakolta a witness? Or a suspect?
Fox 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton says it is common operating procedure that the FBI does not contact subjects of its investigations.
"It appears that the feds are seriously looking at Rakolta as a player in the cozy relationships between county contractors and Bob Ficano."
It is important to say Rakolta has not been charged with any crime. Nor has Ficano. But the first charges in the corruption scandal came down this week. One of Ficano's inner circle was charged with extortion of a contractor and obstruction of justice.
When that shoe dropped, Bob came out of his bunker on the 31st floor of the Guardian Building to offer his ham-handed fury.
Bob's performance reminded me of that scene in Casablanca, where during a raid the chief of police expresses his incredulity at finding illegal gambling. Only this scene was better played.
The fact that Rakolta remains on the Romney campaign speaks to Mitt's judgment. Walbridge has also been banned for three years from contracts with the Detroit water department because the company is named in indictments against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick that allege bid-rigging. Walbridge is appealing the ban.
If this presidential election can be boiled down to anything it is this: America is in deep trouble. And we all know it is going to take a healthy dose of government involvement to dig us out. But Americans --whether they be Tea Partiers, occupiers or independents -- have a serious disdain for politicians.
And Bob Ficano and his gang at the Guardian are increasingly viewed by the electorate and political class as a colony of lepers.
Keeping a fundraiser hanging around with the stink of Wayne County smeared on him will do little to inspire the voters on the fence. Bet you 10 grand.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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