December 9, 2008

Blago busted

In keeping with Illinois' long proud tradition of crooked governors, Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris, were arrested by agents of the FBI at their homes earlier today on corruption charges, including trying to "sell" the seat of departing senator Barack Obama, "like a sports agent", extorting campaign cash for political favors, like a "saleman trying to make his sales goal", and demanding that the Chicago Tribune fire editors who have been critical of Blagojevich in exchange for aid to the Tribune Company in their attempt to sell Wrigley Field.


Despite the threat of indictments and federal investigations swirling around him for years, Blago still continued business as usual.

In the face of new ethics guidelines which would preclude taking big cash from people doing business with the state, instead of the probes and indictments and prosecutions over the past year serving to slow down the corruption, it instead increased, in an attempt to rake in all the cash possible before the new ethics rules kicked in in January.

Federal prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald described Blago of engaging in a "crime spree" that would make "Lincoln roll over in his grave." Fitzgerald also used words such as "appalling", "staggering", "astounding", and "amazing".

Fitzgerald's assistant just revealed during the press conference that they called Blago at 6:00 a.m. this morning, waking him and informing him that there were FBI agents outside his home to take him into custody. Blago initially thought it was a joke, but they convinced him finally that it wasn't. They informed him they had a warrent for his arrest and took him into custody at his home without incident. He said that the children were just starting to stir as they hauled Blago out of his home.

The entire Federal criminal complaint against Blago and Harris can be read here.

The Sun-Times reveals that Blago was wire-tapped and caught speculating about what he might get in exchange for an appointment to Obama's senate seat, including...
• A substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.

• Placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year.

• Promises of campaign funds — including cash up front.

• A cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

Wiretaps revealed Blagojevich speculating about Obama's senate seat.

From the Sun-Times:

Regarding the Senate seat, the charges allege that Blagojevich, Harris and others have engaged and are engaging in efforts to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, to benefit Blagojevich and his family through corruptly using Blagojevich’s sole authority to appoint a successor to the unexpired term of the President-elect’s former Senate seat, which he resigned effective Nov. 16. The affidavit details numerous conversations about the Senate seat between Nov. 3 and Dec. 5. In these conversations, Blagojevich allegedly discussed the attributes of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois, and the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive if he appointed various of the possible candidates.

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.

In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on Nov. 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “If . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.”

Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich allegedly said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

News conference set to start momentarily.

While all this will no doubt sound horribly corrupt to the country, one wonders what the big deal is in Illinois.

I'm sure that many Illinois pols are a bit nervous, seeing as they probably have converstions like this on a near daily basis. If you wire-tapped enough of them, you could probably indict the entire state legislature.

Imagine, trying to bully, threaten, try to buy off or intimidate someone who writes critically about you or your administration!! Hell, that's happened here on a nearly daily basis for years.

More Sun-Times coverage shows Blago's neighbors not surprised.

Details on the charge of selling Obama's seat here.

Details of attempt to get Chicago Tribune editorialists fired here.

This should get Sen. Jacobs excited, since he has visions of being governor dancing in his head.

Another equally pathetic result will inevitably be right wingers trying to insist that this means that Barack Obama is somehow corrupt despite absolutely zero evidence of any involvement on his part whatsoever. Blago is caught on a wiretap complaining that the Obama people weren't team players, that all he got from them was "appreciation", so "F*** 'em!".

But a huge impact of all of this is.... just who is going to select Obama's replacement in the senate??

Sen. Dick Durbin called a press conference earlier today where he called for a special election to choose Obama's replacement in the Senate. It's assumed that this is Obama's preference as well.

Is this the best way to go about it?

Blago was shown yesterday standing with the workers at Republican Window and Door being asked about this. By that time a story had emerged in the Trib that revealed that the Feds were using wire-taps and bugs. Blago said he wasn't concerned and derided them for engaging in spying and comparing it to Watergate.

I assume that there's good in depth coverage and even more, reaction from state insiders over at Capitol Fax as well.

During the press conference, Fitzgerald urged anyone that has been shook down by Blago or other politicians to contact them.

More as details emerge.


At 12/09/2008 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm sure that many Illinois pols are a bit nervous, seeing as they probably have converstions like this on a near daily basis. If you wire-tapped enough of them, you could probably indict the entire state legislature."

Good quote, TID.

Can't even get on Capitolfax. Must be a beehive right now!

At 12/09/2008 5:08 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

According to Fitzgerald, it remains Blago's call to make. He's still the Guv, after all.

At 12/09/2008 5:36 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


Yes, it seems that not only do politicians engage in this sort of things on a daily basis, but it also occurs to me that this announcement must have been pre-mature and rushed by the reporting that Blago was being bugged.

After all, really, what crime did Blago commit here? It seems like all he was doing was TALKING about this sleaze which amounts to business as usual around here.

It really seems like thin gruel to me.

And the media are going nuts on it, as usual, with Chris Matthews just saying that this amounts to corruption on the scale of a banana republic.

Everyone routinely says Blago was trying to "sell" Obama's senate seat.

Really? Or was he simply trying to get something out of it like happens every single day?

Why is Richardson Commerce Sec? Didn't have anything to do with the fact he bucked the Clinton's and endorsed Obama early?

Is that "banana republic" corruption?

Favors and patronage happen all the time, and most of the time, it does no harm, such as doling out ambasadorships to big donors, etc.

And as far as I can tell, Blago did nothing but TALK about this stuff. Didn't know that was a crime.

At 12/09/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

By "it", I assume you mean appointing Obama's successor.

Yes, amazingly enough, Blago is still the one enpowered to make that call. Two big Chicago reporters, Rick Warren, formerly an editor at the Trib and Lynn Sweet from the Sun-Times, both said they wouldn't be surprised if Blago went ahead and made the appointment even now, before the IL lege has a chance to change the law and take the power away from him.

Both Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and a growing slew of other pols are already calling for Blago to step down.

If that happens, it's Quinn who would hold all the marbles in the senate seat appointment game.

At 12/09/2008 10:55 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Illinois voters get bad government because they deserve it. Illinois voters are poorly informed and b they have chosen to elect crooks. "The people have spoken". And in Illinois, the voters are not serious about reform. They reject reform. Every 4 years we hear lip service about "cleaning up government" but it is just lip service. Personally, I knew what Rod Blagojevich was from the very beginning, back when the unions and everyone else thought he was so wonderful. Yes, I voted for Jim Ryan in 2002 and Judy B. Topinka in 2006. Say what you want, but neither one of them would have gotten arrested by the Feds
FACT: The Democratic Party embraced and stood by their standard bearer, Rod Blagojevich not just ONCE but TWICE. They nominated him in 2 primaries. And those well informed Illinoisans re-elected Blago. And now they are going to pretend to be embarrassed? They made their bed, now they can lay in it. You should find that photo of Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn and Lisa Madigan and Dan Hynes all holding hands at the state fair in 2006. The buffoons in the Rock Island County Democratic Party have expressed undying loyalty to Blagojevich. And if Blagojevich was so bad, who would have been willing to give him money? Lots of people as it turns out. YEs, "pay to play" is alive and well. Now you guys can all be proud of your governor: he has gotten Illinois national attention.

At 12/10/2008 12:51 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

All very nice Nico, except you ignore the fact that Dems of all stripes have HATED Blagojevich and been not shy at all about that fact for years.

I'd wager that he felt much more threatened by other Dems than by the impotent Republicans.

Did you vote for Ryan too?

At 12/10/2008 6:33 AM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Well if the Democrats have hated Rod so much for years, they could have voted him out in 2006, but they didn't. His primary opponent was weak.
I did not vote for George Ryan, I voted for Glenn Poshard. That was the last time the Democrats had a decent candidate for governor. In 2002 I voted for Jim Ryan vs. Blagojevich and in 2006 I voted for Topinka. These votes were no-brainers. If more people had voted like I did, we wouldn't have this problem.

At 12/10/2008 1:11 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Can I safely assume that you voted for Bush twice?

So people did vote like you, and the country is on the brink of ruin.

At 12/10/2008 5:30 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I knew you would somehow turn this around on Bush. But to answer your question, yes I voted for Bush both times and I voted for McCain all 3 times, 2000 & 2008. I am one of the 29% who would "approve" of the job Bush has done. And compared to Blagojevich's approval numbers, Bush is stellar.
I never voted for Blagojevich. And unlike so many people, I never thought that he represented "change" or reform.

At 12/11/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...


Your dialogue with Nicodemus sets up that old MMPI question "Would you rather be thought of as stupid (bush) or dishonest (blago). You guys could do team counseling for folks trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Continued Success.

At 12/12/2008 1:28 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I"d only hasten to point out that it was Nico who tried to assume I was some big Blago supporter and defender.

The fact is that I've NEVER supported Blago, being at best indifferent and fully aware that he was one odd duck, and I certainly haven't defended him on this recent mess.

I'm afraid it's Nico on the stupid side, and no one so far on the foolish side. (except Nico with Bush)

That said, I will say that I think the media has gone WAY overboard on this in two ways.

First, there's this pretense that this is shocking, like nothing of this nature has EVER happened in history, that this is corruption on a cosmic scale.


Secondly, I'm not sure exactly what law Blago is guilty of breaking. He talked big, made a fool of himself, and for all we know, was just posturing for his decidedly nasty ass wife.

But until it's shown that he actually DID any of the things he threatened, I'm not sure why people are acting like he's Nixon squared.

And of course, I think he should resign immediately and not embarass an entire state and himself by trying to mount a defense. Even if he's legally in the clear, you don't try to continue a political career after you're caught telling the truth.

The other rather nauseating factor in this is the right wing attempts to muddy up Obama with this, and the press being browbeaten ONCE AGAIN by the Republican whining about bias, to actually pretend like there's something to it.

Reality has flown out the window when reporters and pundits are breathlessly speculating about whether or not someone from the Obama camp ever spoke to the Blago camp about his replacement.

Stop for a second and think.

THIS is some scandal?

That's like saying someone might have their career ended because it was shown that they met with some wealthy people and asked for campaign cash at a fundraiser.

But amid all the phoney bullshit attempts to make something out of nothing and imply corruption where there is none, the fact that it would be WEIRD if no one from Obama's team had contacted the Gov's office about this matter will be lost.

And when it comes out that, yes, someone had contact with Blago's office about the matter, the press and the looney right will be jumping out of their skin saying, "AHA!!" as if it means Obama's a rank crook.

Again, the story is entering the twilight zone.

At 12/12/2008 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caught the promo for Anderson Cooper tonight at 7:00 PM on CNN and guess who they featured? Your best friend --- IL Senator Mike Jacobs. Maybe you can record the interview and run it on your blog? What do you think?

At 12/15/2008 5:57 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

All I've seen is a phoned in interview with a CNN reporter in which Jacobs decided to recount his poser bluster about how, after the fact, he supposedly would have punched out Blago "if it was in a tavern in my home town of East Moline." or in other words, if he'd have been in the bag at the time apparently.

During the shot a map was shown in the background highlighting Moline.

This is hilarious in light of the fact that there's apparently a billboard featuring the Senator's mug just off the Arsenal bridge in Rock Island featuring the message, "Violence is not the answer."

HA! What a hoot! Priceless!

I also caught Keith Olberman briefly quoting Jacobs saying he didn't think Blago was playing with a full deck, after which Olberman added, "Gee, way to go out on a limb there, buddy!"

Jacobs is milking this for all it's worth, which is only natural.

His quotes calling Blago insane or threatening violence towards a sitting governor have appeared in the NYT, and the afore mentioned interview on CNN, then a follow up interview where they apparently actually talked to Jacobs briefly in person.

With the press largely caught flat-footed on this, and being so D.C.-centric, they were scouring the countryside like rabid dogs looking for anyone to comment on the thing. When they dug up Jacobs' threat of violence, that was like candy to them, as was to a lesser extent, his questioning Blago's sanity, though by that time many others were on the record in that department.

I'm sure his macho bluster attracts reporters. I've seen many IL Reps and other pols interviewed in the media, but so far Mikey hasn't made it to the on camera interview on a cable news show though, at least that I'm aware of.

Judging by the multiple comments sent in every time Jacobs gets any press, the senator apparently feels quite happy about the attention, which again is only natural.

With Mikey eyeing Blago's spot, is it really news when he bashes the living hell out of the governor?

But obviously, to Jacobs, Blago is the gift that keeps on giving.

Another interesting tidbit is that in one of the articles that was sent, Jacobs volunteered, almost as if he didn't want anyone to get the wrong impression, that he was "not a reformer." Whew! Thank God for that, eh?

Lord knows this state doesn't need any reform!


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