Illinois - politics as usual

From the Chicago Tribune:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested on federal charges
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois' top office.

Blagojevich is accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including alleged attempts by the governor to try to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. Blagojevich also is accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
And it's not just Obama's senate seat that was up for grabs:
Prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services, secretary of the Energy Department or gain an ambassadorship in the new Obama administration, or get a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate. An Obama spokesman had no immediate comment.

Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year's end when a new tougher law on campaign donations, prompted by the governor's voracious fundraising, would take effect.

Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, (expletive) 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

In addition, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Slate Magazine has an excellent writeup as well:
No Change for Sale
Obama looks great in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's indictment.

The federal indictment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a many-splendored thing. Each act it describes is more outrageous than the last. For the moment, my favorite quote is the governor's maxim that a Senate seat "is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." So true. Michael Huffington spent $30 million, John Corzine $60 million. Perhaps the devaluation of a Senate seat, like that of a governorship, only happens once you're in office.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement this morning that the breadth of corruption "would make (Abraham) Lincoln roll over in his grave." Blagojevich's phones were bugged for more than a month, which captured a lot of rich material and dark psychological terrain. While Blagojevich contemplated the string of difficulties and liabilities stemming from a three-year investigation into his administration, he was still confident enough to muse about a 2016 presidential campaign. He tried to leverage the power to appoint the next senator to replace President-elect Barack Obama into a job as Obama's secretary of health and human services. If that didn't work, he wanted Obama to name him an ambassador or help his wife get on some corporate boards in exchange for naming his preferred candidate to the post. (I called Obama's office to see what it makes of all of this but haven't heard back.)
The Feds take down this moke and five more will rise up to take his place. Chicago is a corrupt city.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on December 9, 2008 2:34 PM.

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