Rod “Did I Do That?” Blagojevich
Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on charges of conspiring to sell an appointment to the United States Senate in what prosecutors called a political corruption crime spree.
The Governor was also accused of demanding kickbacks for to do his job and grant government contracts, lucrative jobs and appointments. It was the Governor’s way or the highway. The problem is that the Governor’s way was a toll road that started in the mid five figures. The man even tried to get certain editors fired from the Chicago Tribune newspaper because of their critical coverage of his administration.
According to United States attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, “The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering […] They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target, and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”
The seventy six page criminal complaint against the capitalistic Governor included descriptions of recorded conversations in which Mr. Blagojevich complained bitterly that while President-elect Barack Obama’s team had a preferred candidate in mind, no one was willing to give the Governor anything except gratitude. Mr. Blagojevich was recorded saying, “They’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck’em!” It was the Governor’s plan to sell the senate seat vacated by Mr. Obama to the highest bidder. Mr. Blagojevich considered taking the seat himself to avoid impeachment by the Illinois legislature to make a potential run for a future presidency. Mr. Blagojevich also considered trading the position for a post in Mr. Obama’s cabinet or a corporate board position for his wife.
Now here’s the kicker. Mr. Blagojevich was released on a forty five hundred dollar bond. His lawyer said the Governor was very surprised and certainly feels that he did not do anything wrong. It’s only business as usual in the state of Illinois. Doesn’t everybody sell political offices for personal gain? Mr. Blagojevich was originally elected as Governor on a promise to reform the culture of corruption surrounding his convicted predecessor, Republican George Ryan. Now that he is in the driver’s seat, Mr. Blagoyevich has no clue where the line lies between blatant corruption and incompetence. That, or the Governor simply meant to change the culture of corruption from Mr. Ryan’s hands to his own and kick it up a notch to show the other political criminals how corruption is really done.
Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said that even the most seasoned investigators were surprised by what they heard the Governor saying. The blazen behavior of Mr. Blagojevich is particularly surprising since the Governor had known for years that he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud and, if he had any sense, must have suspected federal agents were watching him.
The Governor’s office declined to comment on the charges or calls for Mr. Blagojevich’s resignation, saying only that the allegations do nothing to impact his services, duties or functions to the state. The man is caught red handed in the cookie jar of politics, selling services to the public as if Illinois was the Kmart of politics and the senate seat was just the blue light special. Any senate appointment by the Governor will be tainted with suspicion of kickbacks or some other kind of exchange for personal profit at public expense. Illinois United States Senator Dick Durbin put it best when he said, “No appointment by this Governor, under these circumstances, could produce a credible replacement.”
Prosecutors quoted Mr. Blagojevich as saying on wiretaps on his home telephone, “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not gonna do it.” In that respect, Mr. Blagojevich is correct. He had the public’s trust and such an honor was truly golden. And for his betrayal he’ll get a zillion years behind bars.
And whoever submitted a bid to Mr. Blagojevich for the chance to buy the senate seat needs to be exposed as well. Anybody who is buying a political office in an under the table deal is looking for a personal payoff. The winning bidder would get in office with the intent of recouping their financial investment as a top priority. People need to know who’s willing to buy their political office. Mr. Blagojevich couldn’t do what he does without partners in crime. We need to know who the buyers are and prosecute them as well.