Tuesday, December 9, 2008

America's Least Popular Governer Also a Criminal?

Three updates at bottom You can read the charges here.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who in October clocked in an approval rate of 4%, has been arrested by federal agents and charged with various corruption charges.

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.
Apparently Blagojevich was even contemplating running for President?
Prosecutors also alleged Blagojevich expressed feeling "stuck" as a sitting governor and spent a large amount of time weighing whether he should appoint himself to the vacancy—possibly to avoid impeachment and help remake his image for a potential 2016 run for the presidency.

Who did this guy think he was? Federal Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said, "The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."
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.
These charges if true are amazing. This is real old time, classic "Illinois" politics. But even more so, it shows that neither party is free from corrupt pols. Now that Democrats are in power, those who have been honored with the support of the people must take Gov. Blagojevich's case as an example of what goes wrong when you don't respect the people who elected you into office. The 2006 shift in power was largely driven by the Democrats excoriating the Republican party for a "culture of corruption." Democrats have been freed of William Jefferson, and now can hopefully get rid of Blagojevich, but if this becomes a pattern of behavior among elected Democrats, you can bet Republicans will capitalize on it. While Charlie Rangel is a great politician and has done much good during his time in office, his problems continue to further the culture of corruption narrative. Want proof that Republicans are looking to capitalize? Republican house leader John Boehner declared on Monday:
"In the two years ahead, House Republicans will demonstrate our commitment to reform by holding ourselves to the highest possible ethical standard...[and] presenting principled, superior solutions to the challenges facing our country."
I will go out on a limb and say that Republicans will not have the same issues that they had before 2006 for two significant reasons:

1) Most of the Republicans most corrupt politicians were ousted out of office by either federal arrest, resignation, or the ballot box.

2) Parties that have no power, usually are not high targets for those seeking to bribe. Democrats will be the people who are most tempted, the the ones who must most stay on their toes and avoid even the scent of corruption.

The arrest of Blagojevich prompts several questions:
  • Will Barack Obama and other prominent Illinois politicians call on Balgojevich to resign? While Blagojevich has not been proven guilty on any of these charges, the charges are pretty harsh, seem to come with hard evidence (wire taps).
  • If Blagojevich does not resign, who will he appoint to the Senate? Who would accept his appointment?
  • If Blagojevich does resign, who will Pat Quinn, his successo, appoint to the Senate. There is speculation that he, Quinn, was a candidate for the seat. Will he appoint himself? Unclear.
For the sake of the citizens of Illinois, I hope that Blagojevich does the right thing and leaves the public forum as soon as possible.

Great quote from Politico:
Blagojevich was caught on tape telling his Deputy Governor that unless he "received 'something real good" for the appointment of a top adviser to Barack Obama to fill the president-elect"s Senate seat he would appoint himself." According to the complaint, he said, "Unless I get something real good [for Senate candidate 1], s***, I"ll just send myself, you know what I"m saying," He added that a Senate seat: "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."
I might say that a Senate seat is SOOO valuable that it's priceless? That you give it to someone who deserves it? Not someone who buys it? According to Politico, Blagojevich is referring to Obama aid Valerie Jarrett. I just hope that Jarrett wasn't looking to buy it, it doesn't sound like she was.

Update #2:
From the indictment:
Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "President-elect. . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.

In the words of Marc Ambinder:
Was Blagojevich really trying to shake down the president-elect for something of value in exchange for making his preferred Senate appointment? He has some serious stones.

Further, we learn from the indictment:
In a conversation with Harris [his chief of staff] on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them."

Update #3: IRONY ALERT
Just yesterday Blagojevich said:
"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me," the governor said.

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