Today, in a “not so surprising” move the F.B.I. arrested Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on federal corruption charges. What was unexpected, was the news that he was trying to sell the senate seat that Barack Obama left vacant to prepare for the presidency. The governor was taken into custody at his home, on charges of seeking bribes in exchange for Barack Obama’s former senate seat. The arrest of the Governor and his Chief of Staff, John Harris has sparked a storm of controversy, questions, and calls for the governor to resign or be impeached. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has also called for special elections to fill the vacant senate seat.
“The General Assembly should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this governor could produce a credible replacement,” the Senator said.
Lt. Governor Pat. Quinn called for the Governor to resign today saying, “Do the right thing and step aside”. Lt. Gov. Quinn would succeed Blagojevich as governor, should he resign or be impeached.
Blagojevich’s arrest not only raises credibility concerns over who will take the senate seat. It challenges the credibility of anyone who has ever had dealings with the governor. This includes all of the Senate hopefuls like Lisa Madigan and Jesse Jackson Jr. the Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and the current president elect, Mr. Obama himself, and his advisers. The Obama transition team denies having any discussions with Blagojevich about the senate seat for sale, and in fact some of the evidence against Blagojevich suggests that the Obama team was not going to “Pay to Play” this senate game with him.
However, Senior Obama adviser Axelrod said on November 23rd, “I know he’s [Obama] talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.” It is thought that Obama would have liked to see Valerie Jarrett take his former seat.
This begs the question, “How did Blagojevich know that Obama or his advisers would not play, and why was he so angry about it”? The governer was secretly taped on Nov. 11 saying, “I don’t get anything [for appointing Jarrett], “Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him!”
See court complaint documents in this post.
I am sure that in the coming days we will be learning more about who knew what and when. We will also witness the political wrangling and finger pointing that is common in Illinois. No doubt we will also see Blagojevich lie all the way to big house and try to hold on to his job proclaiming his innocence. I am also sure that impeachment proceedings will follow by the end of this week if there is no resignation.
In question of course is, who will now appoint Obama’s replacement in the Senate and how will that appointment be perceived in Illinois. Any appointment by Blagojevich or Quinn is suspect in my opinion. I agree with Senator Durbin (can you believe it), that a special election must be held to avoid any perception of corruption or the same old Illinois politics.
A special election also gives rise to the chance a Republican can take that senate seat and, given the current state of affairs, that canidate might just have a chance to win in the Democratic stronghold of Illinois and Chicago.
I have heard it said, that Illinoisians like their officials to be corrupt. Well maybe that’s true in Crook county and in Springfield, but I think it’s about time we restructure our leadership. People in this state are sick of the corruption and pay to play politics that is bleeding our state dry. It’s time for new ethical leadership in the Governors office, and in all of our represenatives and elected officials. The time to act is now. The time for ethical reform in the State of Illinois has never been more important and more obvious.
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