Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

Blagojevich Playing Chicago-Style Hardball; Who Will Respond?

January 2, 2009

Political circuses just don’t get any better than this — unless you happen to care about a new administration taking power in the midst of national and international catastrophes.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich knows how to make life hell for his enemies, who now encompass almost everyone in the Democratic Party, including President-elect Barack Obama. Yet “almost everyone” is the operative phrase. Roland Burris, the veteran African American politician, discovered an affection for the embattled governor after Blagojevich appointed him to Obama’s Senate seat Tuesday.

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post

And even though the Senate’s Democratic leaders, with Obama’s support, said they would not seat any Blagojevich appointee, Burris refused to back down. “The appointment is legal,” Burris told CNN on Wednesday. That slogan lacks the power of, say, “Change We Can Believe In,” but it’s true.

Rep. Bobby Rush entered the Racial Politics Hall of Fame on Tuesday when he asked reporters not to “hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer.” The Chicago Democrat, who only recently said that Blagojevich did not have the standing to fill the seat, raised the stakes Wednesday on CBS by suggesting that if Democratic senators rejected Burris, they would risk comparisons with George Wallace or Bull Connor.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/article/2009/01/01/AR20090
10101779.html

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Illinois Gov. Blagojevich Corruption Could Still Touch Obama, Emanuel

December 20, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is legendary in Illinois political circles for not picking up the phone or returning calls, even from important figures like the state’s senior senator, Dick Durbin.

But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel — his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently — and troubling for Emanuel — one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff.

The friendly rapport Blagojevich and Emanuel shared over the years has suddenly become a troubling liability for Emanuel and the new president he will serve as chief of staff.

Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich makes his first substantial public ...
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich makes his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week on federal corruption charges at the State of Illinois Building Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Emanuel and Obama have remained silent about what, if anything, Emanuel knew of the governor’s alleged efforts to peddle Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Emanuel did contact the governor’s office about the appointment, and left Blagojevich with the impression that he was pushing Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, so he wouldn’t have to compete with her in the White House for Obama’s attention, said a source close to Blagojevich. The source requested anonymity because the person were not authorized to talk about the governor’s discussions regarding the vacancy.

It was not clear whether Blagojevich inferred Emanuel’s motive for advocating Jarrett, or whether Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich directly or with John Harris, the governor’s then-chief of staff who also is charged in the case, according to the source.

Emanuel’s refusal to discuss the matter publicly, and the few comments offered by Obama to date, have prompted questions about Emanuel’s ties to Blagojevich and what fallout he’ll face as the criminal case unfolds, although sources have said he is not a target of prosecutors. Even so, any hint of scandal for Emanuel threatens to tarnish Obama’s promise of new political leadership free of scandal and corruption.

Obama has said he will release a full accounting of his transition staff’s interaction with Blagojevich and his aides over his Senate replacement once he receives the OK from prosecutors sometime this week. Until then, Obama has said it would be inappropriate for him or his aides to comment further.

Prosecutors refer in the 76-page complaint to the governor’s discussions on FBI tapes about a ”president-elect advisor,” believed to be Emanuel, but they do not specifically cite contacts with Emanuel or anyone on Obama’s transition staff.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2008/12/20/u
s/AP-Illinois-Governor-Emanuel.html

Legal Hurdle: Blagojevich Has A Big Mouth But Was A Crime Completed?

December 16, 2008

When Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago, announced the arrest of the Illinois governor, Rod R. Blagojevich, Mr. Fitzgerald said he had acted to halt a political crime spree that included what he called an “appalling” effort to sell off the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

By Dvid Johnston
the New York Times 

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich leaves a downtown office building Monday, Dec. 15, 
AP Photo By Spencer Green
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But now some lawyers are beginning to suggest that the juiciest part of the case against Mr. Blagojevich, the part involving the Senate seat, may be less than airtight. There is no evidence, at least none that has been disclosed, that the governor actually received anything of value — and the Senate appointment has yet to be made.

Ever since the country’s founding, prosecutors, defense lawyers and juries have been trying to define the difference between criminality and political deal-making. They have never established a clear-cut line between the offensive and the illegal, and the hours of wiretapped conversations involving Mr. Blagojevich, filled with crass, profane talk about benefiting from the Senate vacancy, may fall into a legal gray area.

Robert S. Bennett, one of Washington’s best-known white-collar criminal defense lawyers, said Mr. Blagojevich faced nearly insurmountable legal problems in a case that includes a raft of corruption accusations unrelated to Mr. Obama’s Senate seat. But Mr. Bennett said the case raised some potentially thorny issues about political corruption.

“This town is full of people who call themselves ambassadors, and all they did was pay $200,000 or $300,000 to the Republican or Democratic Party,” said Mr. Bennett, referring to a passage in the criminal complaint filed against the governor suggesting that Mr. Blagojevich was interested in an ambassadorial appointment in return for the Senate seat. “You have to wonder, How much of this guy’s problem was his language, rather than what he really did?”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/us/politics/16legal.html?_r=1&hp

Blagojevich: Panicked, Irrational, Delusional Yet A Charmer?

December 15, 2008

Governor Rod Blagojevich is a polished speaker who can win over elderly women at luncheons in southern Illinois with his earnest attention, and eloquently recite from memory historical passages from the lives of the leaders he says he most admires — Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Robert F. Kennedy, Alexander Hamilton, Ronald Reagan.

And yet, Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush “the football,” an allusion to the “nuclear football,” or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president.

By Monica Davey
The International Herald Tribune

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti leave a downtown ... 
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his wife Patti leave a downtown office building Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Chicago. Blagojevich was arrested this week on federal charges that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

In 1996, a Democrat who shared a campaign office with Blagojevich, John Fritchey was told that his stepfather had suffered a serious stroke. He walked over to Blagojevich, who was making fund-raising calls, and shared the news.

“He proceeded to tell me that he was sorry, and then, in the next breath, he asked me if I could talk to my family about contributing money to his campaign,” recalled Fritchey, now a state representative and a critic of the governor. “To do that, and in such a nonchalant manner, didn’t strike me as something a normal person would do.”

Yet even political figures like Fritchey say they were stunned by his arrest last week on charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes.

Read the rest:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/15
/america/15blagojevich.php

Illinois Lawmakers Intent on Ousting Governor Blagojevich

December 15, 2008

Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for Illinois lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying the step is necessary to restore public confidence in state government.

“The General Assembly must move to impeach Rod Blagojevich immediately,” said DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, a potential Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

“We should have started yesterday,” agreed Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat.

Legislators were to meet Monday afternoon for the first time since Blagojevich was arrested last week on charges he shook down businesses seeking state deals and tried to profit from his power to choose a replacement for President-elect Barack Obama‘s vacant Senate seat.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich waves as he leaves a downtown ... 
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich waves as he leaves a downtown office building Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Chicago. Blagojevich was arrested this week on federal charges that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The session’s focus was supposed to be about considering a special election, but impeachment is likely to be the chief topic of conversation.

Read the rest from the Associated Press:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081215/ap_on_re_us/illinois_governor

McCain to Republicans: Give Obama A Break

December 14, 2008

In a surprising rebuke to the warriors who fought for him through tough times, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday sided with President-elect Barack Obama and scolded the Republican National Committee for fanning the Illinois corruption scandal. 

On ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos asked: “The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mike Duncan, has been highly critical of the way President- elect Obama has dealt with this. 

John McCain
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“He’s had a statement every single day, saying that the Obama team should reveal all contacts they’ve had with Governor [Rod] Blagojevich. He says that Obama’s promise of transparency to the American people is now being tested. Do you agree with that?” 

McCain replied: “I think that the Obama campaign should and will give all information necessary. You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. And so, I don’t know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama’s campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois, but I have some confidence that all the information will come out. It always does, it seems to me.” 
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Just this morning, the Republican National Committee released a Web video called “Questions Remain.” 

“The video highlights the evolving explanations delivered by President-elect Obama and his advisers concerning their contact with the embattled and scandal-plagued Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich despite Obama’s promises to instill greater transparency and confidence in government,” the party’s announcement said.
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By Mike Allen
Politico

http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20081214/pl_politico/16562_2

In Illinois, Corruption Often Expected, Accepted

December 13, 2008

As much as politicians in Illinois have had a tradition of corruption, the people of Illinois have had a tradition of accepting it, even expecting it — and long before Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was accused of trying to put a Senate seat up to the highest bidder.

By Kate Zernike
The New York Times
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Otto Kerner, who served as governor in the 1960s, was found to have accepted bribes in the form of racetrack stock only after the track owner deducted it on her taxes as the cost of doing business.

After Paul Powell, an Illinois secretary of state, longtime state legislator and infamous dealmaker, died in 1970, associates discovered $800,000 in undocumented cash in shoeboxes, briefcases and strongboxes in his closet, a considerable cache for a man who had never earned a salary of more than $30,000.

Mr. Powell had emerged unscathed from a grand jury investigation into accusations that he bought stock in a harness racing company. As he said, “It wound up with the grand jurors wanting to know from me where they could buy racetrack stock.”

Former Gov. Otto Kerner, right, was convicted in 1973 on bribery, tax evasion and perjury charges; and former Representative Dan Rostenkowski pleaded guilty to two charges of mail fraud in 1996.
Above, left, Dan Rostenkowski. Right, Otto Kerner, Jr.

The state’s unusually lax laws have allowed corruption to flourish — in fact, prosecutors say, it was the threat of a new campaign finance law that takes effect in January that set Mr. Blagojevich on a last spree of pay-to-play. The tradition was established by the immigrants who settled the state in the 19th century and nurtured by a stubborn system of machine politics that other states eradicated long ago.

“There is this attitude among politicians, and frankly among citizens, that this is the way things are,” said Kent Redfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Politics is for professionals.”

The surprise for many Illinoisans last week was not that their governor was arrested, but that he could be brazen enough to try to sell a United States Senate seat when he was already under federal investigation.

Now the culture of his adopted home state threatens to dog President-elect Barack Obama, whose vacated seat in the Senate Mr. Blagojevich is accused of putting up for auction, much as swampy Arkansas politics dogged the last young Democratic politician elected on a platform of change, former President Bill Clinton.

Related:
Blagojevich, Obama, Jesse Jackson All Tied Together

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/1
2/14/us/14corrupt.html?_r=1&hp

Abraham Lincoln
Above: The last honest politician from Illinois?

Obama, Emanuel Take More Heat For Blagojavich Ties

December 13, 2008

Rahm Emanuel, who has been tapped by Obama to be his White House chief of staff, had conversations beginning just before the Nov. 4 election with Blagojevich’s administration about who would replace Obama in the Senate, according to a report Saturday in the Chicago Tribune.

Emanuel, a Chicago congressman who has long been close to both Blagojevich and Obama, gave Blagojevich’s chief of staff a list of Democrats acceptable to Obama to fill the Senate seat, according to the Tribune report. The report did not suggest there was any dealmaking in the conversations, which were captured on court-ordered wiretaps.

*************

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

Republicans are criticizing President-elect Barack Obama‘s silence over contacts his aides may have had with disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he is breaking promises to bring openness to government.

“While it is encouraging that the president-elect has stated his office will disclose contacts with the scandal-ridden governor, it remains disappointing that his actions are in response to political pressure,” Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan said.

“Americans expect the highest degree of transparency from their elected leaders, rather than promises of openness on the campaign trail,” he said.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich shakes hands with Pastor Marshall ... 
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich shakes hands with Pastor Marshall Hatch of the New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church as he arrives at his home with Pastor Ira Acree, right, of the Greater St. John Bible Church, and the Rev. Steve Jones, president of the Baptist pastor’s conference, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008, in Chicago. Calls to impeach the governor intensified in the wake accusations of scheming to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.(AP Photo/Mark Carlson)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081213/ap_
on_go_pr_wh/obama_illinois_governor

Corruption In Obama’s Back Yard

December 13, 2008

A corruption scandal in President-elect Obama‘s backyard is the last thing this country needs. But like it or not, that’s exactly what we have in the unfolding drama of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich‘s arrest earlier this week for trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

The federal prosecutor in the case — Patrick Fitzgerald, the man whose investigation of the Valerie Plame leak case nearly paralyzed the Bush White House for a time — has made it clear that nothing ties Mr. Obama directly to the Blagojevich scheme. But the timing of Mr. Fitzgerald’s announcement raises some serious questions.

By Linda Chavez
The Washington Times 

Apparently, Mr. Fitzgerald knew Mr. Blagojevich was trolling for bidders for the Obama seat in the waning days of the general election. Before the first votes were counted to elect Mr. Obama president, Mr. Blagojevich was so confident in Mr. Obama’s victory he was already soliciting bids for the seat. And Mr. Fitzgerald already had substantial evidence that Mr. Blagojevich was engaged in major corruption before the governor put a “for sale” sign on the Senate seat. So why didn’t the federal prosecutor act prior to the election? Had he done so, of course, it could have damaged Mr. Obama.

Many would argue that bringing down another Illinois Democrat before the election would have smelled like a dirty trick. The federal prosecutor, after all, was a Republican appointee, and the McCain campaign had already run ads trying to tie Mr. Obama to political corruption in Chicago.

One of Mr. Obama’s early financial supporters, land developer Tony Rezko, was convicted on corruption charges earlier this year….

An Oct. 19, 2006 file photo shows Antoin 'Tony' Rezko leaving ... 
Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/13/troubling-questions/

Jesse Jackson Says He’s Clean; “Clearly, a scheme had been hatched in the mind of the governor”

December 13, 2008

A fundraiser held by Indian-American businessmen three days before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges emerged Friday as a potentially key event in the federal investigation into whether he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama‘s vacant Senate seat.

Questions are being raised about last Saturday’s event for Blagojevich because Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan, was among those attending. The Indian community has a long history of supporting the Jackson family’s political aspirations, and the congressman has been clear about his interest in succeeding Obama.

Rep. Jackson, however, flatly denied that he or his brother were involved in a scheme for Blagojevich to peddle the Senate seat in return for up to $1.5 million in political contributions.

The congressman also said neither his brother nor his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, served as any kind of emissary for discussions with the governor.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081213/ap_on_re_us/illinois_governor_jackson