Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi "Ali G" Giannoulias was senior loan officer at his family bank, Broadway Bank, which authorized loans to convicted organized crime leaders like Michael “Jaws” Giorango (a pimp and bookmaker), Demitri Stavropoulos (an illegal gambling operator), and for convicted felon Tony Rezko, as chronicled here.
Broadway Bank, owned and operated by the Giannoulias family, was closed by the feds just two weeks ago, which led the spokesman of his political opponent Mark Kirk to give this statement to the New York Times: “While years of risky lending schemes, hot money investments and loans to organized crime led to today’s failure, it’s a sad day for Broadway Bank employees who may lose their jobs due to Mr. Giannoulias’s reckless business practices.”
But now even Ali G has outdone himself. Last night, the candidate held a political fundraiser which was co-hosted by Joseph DiPiazza. DiPiazza, like so many of Ali G’s other acquaintances, has been involved in shady land deals in Chicago.
DiPiazza works for his father’s real estate development firm, “Ferro-DiPiazza.” His father is Thomas DiPiazza.
· In 1998, DiPiazza’s firm bought a vacant “contaminated” property for $50,000. “Six years later,” according to the Chicago Tribune, “the city [of Chicago] paid them $1.2 million for the land.” Here’s more, from the Chicago Tribune (“For insider, park a gold mine”):
Mayor Richard Daley took an hourlong boat ride on the Chicago River in fall 1997 and came back with a vision of improving the riverfront in the city's neighborhoods. Just about that time, Thomas DiPiazza, an ally of Daley's, also took an interest in the riverfront, buying a highly contaminated piece of land that was slated to become a public park under the mayor's plan.Nearly 10 years later, the park still has not opened, but DiPiazza's real estate investment has paid off handsomely, according to a Tribune investigation. DiPiazza and a partner bought the vacant, odd-shaped property in Daley's native Bridgeport neighborhood for $50,000 in 1998. Six years later, the city paid them $1.2 million for the land. The investors benefited from ever-escalating appraisals. The final one tripled the land's estimated value after the city broke from its usual practice of valuing land at its current zoning. DiPiazza's good fortune is a familiar tale of how insiders profit from even the most public-minded projects undertaken by the Daley administration, from wrought-iron fencing to blue-bag recycling.
· In 2002, the DiPiazza firm again gained special privilege: After it bought land for $325,000, the firm was able to change the land’s zoning, and quickly resell the land (without developing it) for $2.7 million. Here’s the Chicago Tribune on the story ("A curious tale of two properties"):
Friends of Mayor Richard Daley made out handsomely when land they owned was rezoned in the 11th Ward, helping them sell the property for about $2.4 million more than they paid for it.A critic of the Daley administration didn't do so well, however. He couldn't get a zoning change, and the value of his property diminished by about $4 million, according to court papers.
· In 2007, DiPiazza was involved in yet another shady land deal, this regarding the Bridgeport Village. Here’s the Chicago Tribune ("Developer says insiders shut project"):
A developer alleged Thursday that political operatives from Mayor Richard Daley's native 11th Ward shut down work on his upscale Bridgeport subdivision when he refused to give them favors. In a federal lawsuit that adds new political intrigue to the controversy over the Bridgeport Village development, businessman Thomas Snitzer said he was strong-armed by Timothy Degnan, a former top aide to Daley, and Thomas DiPiazza, a real estate developer and consultant described in the suit as Degnan's "top lieutenant." They sought kickbacks and demanded discount prices on homes for City Hall insiders and used influence in the Daley administration to stop him when he wouldn't go along, according to the lawsuit.
In Chicago, it’s great to be an “insider,” and surely Joseph DiPiazza hopes his connection with Ali G will pay off.
It’s hard to tell how well Ali G and DiPiazza know each other, but here’s video from last night’s event of the candidate for Barack Obama’s former Senate seat welcoming the co-hosts:
DiPiazza has given $2,250 to Ali G’s campaign, according to FEC disclosures.
DiPiazza announced the fundraised on his Twitter page, saying, “I'm hosting an event for #ILSEN Candidate Alexi @Giannoulias this THURS, 5-6-10 @DeLuxBar&Grill (669 N. Milwaukee) 6-8p DM me for FREE TIX.”
For non-insiders, tickets to the fundraiser were $40 in advance, $50 at the door. But, in the DiPiazza way, tickets were free for those in the know.
But the part of DiPiazza's Twitter account that might be most revealing is his photo collection. Which, for lack of a better description, contains lewd pornographic images, that show him weirdly obsessed with men’s genitalia (warning: extremely graphic and disturbing photos!).