Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a scandal-plagued Democrat who among other things was preparing to appoint a senatorial successor to President-elect Barack Obama, was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents on what can only be described as breathtaking charges of corruption.
Needless to say, this is more than just another bust of another allegedly crooked governor of a state that has sent a good many of chief executives to prison — including Blagojevich’s predecessor, Republican George Ryan.
What are the ramifications?
First off, Obama is going to face questions about Blagojevich, a fellow Chicago pol with whom the president elect served in the Illinois statehouse during the period from 2003 to 2005 when Blagojevich was governor and Obama was a state senator. The president-elect is not saying much beyond a standard “it’s a sad day for Illinois” lamentation.
Obama would appear to be on pretty solid ground, as he was never particularly close to the governor. But the right-wing echo chamber will go wild about the fact that the two were in the same room with one another dozens of times and knew hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the same people — including unsavory characters such as Chicago fixer Tony Rezko.
Intriguingly, one of the charges against Blagojevich is that he demanded appointment for himself as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration — apparently in return for appointing a senator who would be to the president-elect’s liking. That raises the prospect that either Obama or members of his transition team may have cooperated into the federal investigation of the governor’s activities. Certainly, Obama fans will hope this turns out to have been the case.
What is clear from the transcripts of tapes contained in the 76-page indictment is that Blagojevich was not satisfied with the response from the Obama team. The governor was overheard saying of the transition team: “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F**k them.”
At another point, the Blagojevich used the same epithet with regard to Obama himself.
It appears that the governor sought various and sundry benefits for himself, his wife and his campaign in return for Obama’s seat. Blagojevich is quoted as saying that a Senate seat “is a f**king valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”
Reflecting on the governor’s actions and statements, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declared, “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…”