December 10, 2008

Anyone Need a State Contract? How about a Senate Seat?

Monique Chartier

Hopefully, the conduct of the next Governor of Illinois will be guided by his or her observations of the fate of the current and prior occupants of the office.

The allegations against Blagojevich provide a sharp contrast to a Democratic governor who campaigned for office promising reforms in the wake of disgraced, scandal-tainted Republican chief executive George Ryan. The complaint against Blagojevich comes little more than two years after Ryan was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison on federal corruption charges.

It's hard not to conclude that someone is keenly interested in the goings-on of the office, which may not make it the best place for funny business.

Progressive magazine compiled some ... er, highlights of Governor Blagojevich "In His Own Words" from the FBI wiretaps. They make it clear that Blagojevich viewed his appointment power vis a vis the empty Senate seat pretty much like an ATM card. From the tapes, we also learned that the gov ... well, really didn't want to be gov for the balance of his term. During a conference call (that his wife attended):

ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked whether there is something that could be done with his wife’s “series 7" license in terms of working out a deal for the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he is “struggling” financially and does “not want to be Governor for the next two years.”
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While there isn't any evidence that Obama personally knew about the corruption, some of Blagojevich's comments raise questions about those around Obama.

In particular, Blagojevich talked about swapping the vacant Obama seat for a "Cabinet position" or "ambassadorship".

Blagojevich obviously felt comfortable enough with at least one person that is close to the President-elect that he thought he could wrangle a Presidential appoint to highest levels of government.

I'd also take a close look at David Axelrod, Obama's political strategist who used to work for Blagojevich.

If Obama is smart, he'll rid his inner circle of anyone tied to Blagojevich or the Chicago machine politics that he represents.

Tony Rezko, Rev. Wright, Blagojevich, etc. Obama's Chicago base of support contains some rough characters. The media didn't vet Obama, much less those around him. If Obama isn't real careful about who he appoints, he runs the risk of running a scandal-prone administration. And that's the last thing the country needs right now.

Posted by: Anthony at December 10, 2008 11:57 AM

Yet another "association" on the part of Obama.

Amazingly, there are places more politically corrupt than Rhode Island, and Chicago / Illinois is one of them.

While Republicans have some isolated corruption - DiPrete here, Alaska, it's amazing just how consistently corrupt Democrat-run areas are.

Rhode Island; Illinois; New Jersey; Arkansas and Louisiana have been controlled by Democrats for decades, and are well known for their cultures of corruption.

I guess it makes sense. Unions are in bed with the Mob; the Democrats are in bed with the unions.

Just one big, happy jailbird family!

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 10, 2008 12:28 PM

It's more than just the unions.

Traditionally, Democrats tend to dole out more taxpayer money than Republicans, so there are greater opportunities for graft.

Also, the Republican Party primarily consists of middle class voters, while the Democratic Party consists of a disparate group of special interest group. Uniting the various groups requires a fair amount of horse-trading to push an agenda, which always seem to lead to quid pro quo's.

In the past couple of years, the GOP has engaged in overspending normally associated with Democrats and managed to alienate middle class. However, now that the Democrats control everything, I have no doubt that their true colors will begin to show.

Posted by: Anthony at December 10, 2008 12:42 PM

I hope the prosecutors don't overplay the political mutual backscratching - "I'd like an ambassadorship, you have a favorite senate replacement in mind" - to the detriment of successfully prosecuting the more blatant money grabs. As long as the "swapping" is not a guaranteed quid pro quo, sounds like ordinary politics to me.

Posted by: chuckR at December 10, 2008 1:06 PM

So now we find out that Obama campaign co-chair Jesse Jackson, Jr. is Senate "Candidate #5". Of course, like Buddy Cianci on the local level, I'm sure he had "no idea" of the dealings going on around him!

A million bucks for a Senate seat seems reasonable to me!

Although a question does arise. If Jesse, Jr. had no idea about Blag's considering him for a Senate seat in exchange for $1 million, how did he know that he was "Candidate #5"?

Posted by: Anthony at December 10, 2008 3:53 PM

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to learn that the labor union SEIU is in the thick of it!

Posted by: Tom W at December 10, 2008 4:59 PM

Plus, TomW, did Candidate #1 know that the SEIU and Blagojevich were discussing the advancement of his/her appointment to the Senate in the context of compensation?


"Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. #*&% them.”"

So to have evoked this reaction, it must have been made clear to the Obama team that Blagojevich was looking for a quid pro quo to appoint Obama's preferred replacement.

Posted by: Monique at December 11, 2008 12:06 AM

That's a great point, Monique and it's a great counterpoint to rhody's response under Justin's comment.

I also seem to recall that House and Senate rules call for Members to report attempted bribes to the FBI for investigation. It would be really interesting to know who Gov. Blag spoke with on Obama's transition team and the nature of that discussion.

Of course, it appears that while Obama denies personally speaking with Gov. Blag, Obama is giving everyone the "Heisman" when they ask whether any of his senior staff members had conversations with Gov. Blag over the seat on Obama's behalf. Based on the FBI tapes, it appears they did.

Rahm Emanuel has been conspicuously silent on the topic, although supposedly he spoke with Gov. Blag frequently.

Posted by: Anthony at December 11, 2008 9:05 AM
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