We finally get a good, old-fashioned, political scandal -- the kind involving money and power rather than money and sex. Illinois Governor Arrested on Corruption Charges - WSJ.com
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.
"I want to make money," the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.
I knew Governor Blagojevich was corrupt but Illinois politics are just a cut above (below?) everyone else.
"In other conversations, FBI agents say the governor, his aide and others tried to use the governor's position to withhold state assistance to the Tribune Co. to induce the firing of a Chicago Tribune editorial board member critical of the governor."
I wonder what the editorial board member could have possibly been critical of? After all, the Governor is a reformer!
"Mr. Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.
Mr. Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Mr. Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor."
Then you read things like this: Senate Sale - Jonah Goldberg - The Corner on National Review Online.
"Following a 90-minute audition meeting today with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said he was confident in the process the governor is using to make his choice for a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama.
"Jackson has mounted the most highly visible campaign among several people who are being considered for the Senate post. He said the meeting with Blagojevich amounted to a "very productive conversation, very thoughtful" that covered a broad range of issues."
Does that mean what I think it does? Exactly how thoughtful was that conversation and what range of issues did it cover? Byron York provides some juicy excerpts from the Federal indictment.
"if . . . they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it." ... "unless I get something real good for [Senate Candidate 1], shit, I'll just send myself, you know what I'm saying." ... "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself." Later, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the Senate seat "is a f---ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."
On November 7, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor A about the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is willing to "trade" the Senate seat to Senate Candidate 1 in exchange for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the President-elect's cabinet. 99. Later on November 7, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH discussed the open Senate seat in a three-way call with JOHN HARRIS and Advisor B, a Washington D.C.-based consultant. ROD BLAGOJEVICH indicated in the call that if he was appointed as Secretary of Health and Human Services by the President-elect, then ROD BLAGOJEVICH would appoint Senate Candidate 1 to the open Senate seat. HARRIS stated "we wanted our ask to be reasonable and rather than. . .make it look like some sort of selfish grab for a quid pro quo." ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he needs to consider his family and that he is "financially" hurting. HARRIS said that they are considering what will help the "financial security" of the Blagojevich family and what will keep ROD BLAGOJEVICH "politically viable." ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated, "I want to make money." During the call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, HARRIS, and Advisor B discussed the prospect of working a three-way deal for the open Senate seat. HARRIS noted that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is interested in taking a high-paying position with an organization called "Change to Win," which is connected to Service Employees International Union ("SEIU"). HARRIS suggested that SEIU Official make ROD BLAGOJEVICH the head of Change to Win and, in exchange, the President-elect could help Change to Win with its legislative agenda on a national level.
Oooh. That's good: three-way quid pro quo between a corrupt governor, a potentially corrupt union, and a newly elected President from a corrupt state machine. This could be the Teapot Dome or Grant years all over again!
Finally, it looks like that Senate seat will stay open and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will get to keep his job. Merry Fitzmas in Illinois! - David Freddoso - The Corner on National Review Online
But for now, two important observations. First, no one wants a Senate appointment from a man accused of selling the seat. We may need a change of governor soon. There is no law in Illinois providing for situations in which the governor temporarily gives up his powers. The general assembly would have to pass such a law. An impeachment is probably more likely. Blagojevich could appoint someone from jail, but I don't think the Senate would seat such an appointment under these circumstances. Second, by arresting Blagojevich before Inauguration Day, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has done the one thing that absolutely prevents Barack Obama from removing him from his position. As he has worked doggedly to send corrupt politicians (many of them Obama's friends and political allies) to prison Fitzgerald has arguably become the most important man in Illinois politics.
And there's not a thing President Obama can do to stop any of this. His political support will start evaporating the moment he looks anything like a corrupt Chicago politician. Voters were hoping to elect a clean politician who would give them Hope and bring about Change to Washington. He can't afford to look like just another corrupt pol.
I'm going to pop some popcorn and settle back to find out exactly how many Illinois governors in a row can be arrested on corruption charges. We've got 2 so far. Can we make it 3?