CHICAGO — A key figure in Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's alleged scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat has sought immunity from federal authorities in return for his cooperation.
Businessman and political fundraiser Raghuveer P. Nayak is Individual D in the federal complaint, sources said. Individual D was being squeezed by the governor for campaign cash, according to prosecutors, in order to appoint Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Investigators appeared at Nayak's home in Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, the morning the FBI arrested Blagojevich, the sources said. Federal agents that day contacted a number of people connected to the case.
Nayak has not been accused of wrongdoing.
He declined to comment for this article.
A 54-year-old millionaire who made his fortune in medical businesses, he was little-known outside Chicago's close-knit Indian community and Illinois political fundraising circles until the governor's Dec. 9 arrest, which has made him a central figure in the scandal.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that Nayak hosted an Oct. 31 luncheon where he discussed raising $1 million for Blagojevich to help persuade the governor to choose Jackson.
The congressman's brother Jonathan appeared at a Nayak-sponsored fundraiser for the governor three days before Blagojevich was arrested.
The congressman has acknowledged speaking with Nayak about his desire for the Senate seat but said he was not aware of a fundraising effort to support his bid.
Jackson's lawyer, James Montgomery Sr., reacted to the news of Nayak's bid for immunity by saying, "If that is indeed the case, and if that cooperation relates to my client, then [Nayak] is trying to save his own skin. That's all I have to say."
Attempts to reach the congressman were unsuccessful Sunday evening.
Only Blagojevich and his chief of staff are charged in the federal complaint, which alleges the two-term Democrat put a price on many of his official actions.
Federal prosecutors say the case epitomizes the worst excesses of a political system in which public officials raise money from people who want something from their government. Those who supply the money are never far from government's most powerful players. And that system wouldn't exist without people like Nayak.
Federal and state election reports show that Nayak, his wife and his businesses for the last decade have donated more than $779,000 and raised hundreds of thousands more for candidates ranging from the Cook County circuit court clerk to Obama.
He has contributed primarily to Democrats but also to Republicans.
Nayak has been a notable contributor and fundraiser for three state officials who have been among the governor's harshest critics since the scandal broke -- Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
Nayak and his longtime business attorney refused to discuss the Blagojevich case. But the attorney, Thomas Conley, said his client is "just a good guy" and an honest businessman who stepped up when "the Indian community recognized that it needed to have its interests heard by politicians."
Nayak has been a longtime supporter of Rep. Jackson, and he's traveled with the congressman's father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to India.
He also was a partner of Jonathan Jackson on a failed land deal.