State law may not require that Rod Blagojevich step down when he hasn't been convicted of anything--or even when he has--but the pressure on him to do so is already soaring. Every politician who can get anybody to listen has called on him to quit, starting with his lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who so recently was campaigning for the early release of our last governor-turned-convict, asked state legislative leaders to remove the governor's power to fill the Senate seat, and they said they'll comply. Other legislators have threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if the gov doesn't remove himself soon.
And even if, as he maintains, Barack Obama didn't have any conversations with the governor about deals for his old Senate seat, it never helps a politician to have to issue denials of his involvement in payoff scandals back home--especially when he's trying to convince skeptics that his stimulus plan doesn't simply amount to wasteful government spending.
I, for one, won't attempt to predict how Blagojevich will respond; count me among those who never would have guessed that, after watching several inner-circle advisers sent to prison, he'd involve himself in another, even cruder round of pay-to-play and political retribution. (Withholding state payments from Children's Memorial Hospital? Good god.) Blagojevich might see he doesn't have many friends or any political future and summon a little dignity to say so long; he might say screw it, I've got nothing to lose, I'm sticking around til you make me go; or maybe he'll offer Patrick Fitzgerald a U.S. Senate appointment in return for dropping charges against him. Little would shock us at this point.
Still, the worse he makes it on the rest of the Chicago political establishment, the less help he's likely to have for his fight to stay or get out of jail. George Ryan at least figured that one out.
The federal criminal complaint against Rod Blagojevich details a series of conversations with aides about what the gov could exact from Barack Obama and other supporters in return for picking one of their favorites to fill Obama's Senate seat. The candidates themselves aren't named--they're simply referred to by number. Based on the clues, here are some educated guesses on the identity of each. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald emphasized this morning that none of these individuals has been accused of any criminal conduct:
Senate Candidate 1
CLUES: Described as "an advisor to the President-elect, was interested in the Senate seat if it became vacant, and was likely to be supported by the President-elect." Blagojevich was considering her--the candidate is identified as a female--if Obama would name him secretary of Health and Human Services in return.
GUESS: Valerie Jarrett
Senate Candidate 2
CLUES: The complaint says, "On November 6, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Spokesman. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Spokesman to leak to a particular columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, that Senate Candidate 2 is in the running for the vacant Senate seat. A review of this particular Sun-Times column on November 7, 2008, indicates references to the specific language and arguments regarding Senate Candidate 2 as a potential candidate for the Senate seat, as discussed by ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Spokesman.
GUESS: Lisa Madigan (The columnist is Michael Sneed.)
Senate Candidate 3:
CLUES: Not many. Only referred to once in the complaint: "ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that the 'trick . . . is how do you conduct indirectly . . . a negotiation' for the Senate seat. Thereafter, ROD BLAGOJEVICH analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to various teams, stating 'how much are you offering, [President-elect]? What are you offering, [Senate Candidate 2]? . . . Can always go to . . . [Senate Candidate 3].' Later ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that he will make a decision on the Senate seat 'in good faith . . . but it is not coming for free. . . . It's got to be good stuff for the people of Illinois and good for me.'"
GUESS: Tammy Duckworth? Jan Schakowsky? Luis Gutierrez?
Senate Candidate 4:
CLUES: The complaint says, "Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois. . . . Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if he appoints Senate Candidate 4 to the Senate seat and, thereafter, it appears that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might get impeached, he could 'count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there.'"
GUESS: Blagojevich has three deputy governors: Bob Greenlee, Louanner Peters, and Dean MartinezSenate Candidate 5:
CLUES: According to the complaint, this person is "publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat"; the governor's purported interest in the candidate was also leaked to the Sun-Times. Blagojevich "was giving Senate Candidate 5 greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if ROD BLAGOJEVICH ran for re-election Senate Candidate 5 would 'raise money' for ROD BLAGOJEVICH. . . . Senate Candidate 5 was very much a realistic candidate for the open Senate seat, but . . . ROD BLAGOJEVICH was getting 'a lot of pressure' not to appoint Senate Candidate 5."
GUESS: Jesse Jackson Jr.
Senate Candidate 6:
CLUES: The complaint says this person is "believed to be a wealthy person from Illinois" and male. Blagojevich and his aides discussed the candidate's ability to raise money for a nonprofit the governor could head after leaving office. "ROD BLAGOJEVICH asked, 'if I get [Senate Candidate 6] to do something like that, is it worth giving him the Senate seat?' Advisor A responded that it would be hard to put Senate Candidate 6 in the Senate seat. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that it would be better than putting Senate Candidate 1 in the Senate and not getting anything back."
GUESS: Hyatt Hotel heir J.B. Pritzker
Governor Blagojevich was thinking carefully about how to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, according to the feds: "I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it."
In fact, the governor and top advisers allegedly came up with a list of coveted jobs and favors from Obama, Obama's allies, or campaign supporters--that might help him make a decision. Among them:
· an ambassadorship
· secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
· secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy
· head of a private foundation, perhaps the Red Cross
· head of a nonprofit funded with $10-$15 million from Warren Buffett or Bill Gates
· head of Change To Win union coalition
· some other kind of job paying $250-$300K a year
· job for wife Patti Blagojevich in Washington or New York
· job for Patti Blagojevich with Change to Win
· corporate board appointments for Patti Blagojevich
Or, if none of this worked out, Blagojevich could always call himself a senator: "And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.”
"The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald [PDF] said a few minutes ago. The governor's office, he said, is "in the middle of a political corruption crime spree, and we wanted to stop it."
If you had December 9, 2008, in the "When's the governor going down?" office pool, you win!
You've heard the news about Blago, now read the mind-boggling details in the criminal complaint [pdf]. Did he really think he could get some staffers at the Trib fired? Or wrangle a job in the Obama administration even though he's under investigation? Or appoint himself to Barack Obama's old Senate seat?
The complaint quotes him as saying: "I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I’m saying. And if I don’t get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself. . . . [The seat] is a fucking valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing."