December 9, 2008

'Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrested on corruption charges'

I was just starting to feel a bit more optimistic about the American political system when I came across this. I have two final exams tomorrow, so I can't say very much right now, but I thought I should share it with you. It is pretty disturbing...I can only say that I'm glad he was caught...but in the case of Illinois Governors I don't have much confidence. Here's a concise article from the Canadian newspaper the National Post:

WASHINGTON -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on corruption charges involving an alleged scheme to sell or trade Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat in exchange for a high-ranking position in the president-elect's administration, a high-paying non-governmental job or prominent corporate appointments for his wife.

In a stunning political development, federal prosecutors allege Mr. Blagojevich conspired to find ways to secure the job as Mr. Obama's health secretary or a six-figure charitable foundation job elsewhere in exchange for appointing a particular candidate to fill the open Illinois Senate seat.

Under Illinois law, the governor is responsible for naming a temporary successor when a U.S. Senate seat is vacated.

In a series of court-authorized wiretapped conversations, Mr. Blagojevich was also heard following the Nov. 4 election discussing ways to obtain corporate board appointments for his wife or an ambassadorship for himself.

"I've got this [power] and it's f------ golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f-----' nothing," he is quoted as saying in a sworn affidavit by investigators.

In the affidavit, Mr. Blagojevich is repeatedly quoted saying he might appoint himself to the U.S. Senate if he could not secure a deal that provided him financial or professional benefit.

"I want to make money," Mr. Blagojevich allegedly said in one call. He spoke of finding ways to "conduct indirectly ... a negotiation" for the Senate seat.

"Unless I get something real good ... I'll just send myself [to the Senate], you know what I'm saying," he is quoted as saying in another call.

"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." He later says the Senate seat is "is a f------ valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."

Several potential Senate candidates -- all unnamed in the affidavit -- were discussed in calls Mr. Blagojevich allegedly had with his chief of staff, a deputy governor, his wife and others. One potential successor, referred to only as Senate Candidate 1, is described in the affidavit as an Obama adviser likely to be favoured by the president-elect.

When Mr. Blagojevich reports that he is being told by one of his consultants to "suck it up" and not try to negotiate a deal on the Senate appointment, the governor unleashes a string of profanities.

"For nothing? F--- him," he says, referring to Mr. Obama.

Since the election, several people have been mentioned as potential successors to Mr. Obama. They include Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., who served as a national co-chair of Obama's campaign, Obama campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan, Illinois State Representative Emil Jones, another longtime Mr. Obama friend, and Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran who lost both of her legs in the war.

The charges against Mr. Blagojevich relating to Mr. Obama's vacant Senate seat follow a years-long investigation into Mr. Blagojevich, who is accused of engaging in "pay for play" schemes that include receiving contributions in exchange for political favours.

Mr. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, said in a statement. "They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator ... The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public's interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions."

Mr. Fitzgerald is best known for his prosecutions of Canadian media baron Conrad Black and former White House aide Lewis ‘Scooter' Libby.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Geoff! I lived in Illinois in 2001-2002 while my husband was in grad school and I was finishing up my dissertation. Blagojevitch was running for something then (governor, I suppose), and his campaign ads struck me as fairly original: while one theme highlighted the poor record of the sitting governor (Ryan?), the other seemed to say just vote for me because I'm ethnic. They featured lots of people mispronouncing his name. At the time, I didn't realize he must have meant "vote for me because I'm part of the Chicago mob."