Browsing the archives for the Illinois tag.

Rod Blagojevich: Still Crazy After All These Years

Politics, US Politics

With news of the scandal surrounding Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich grabbing the nation’s attention, it’s worth remembering that out of the last seven men who previously held that office, three ended up in jail. Illinois, in fact, is the only state where the governor has two official portraits: one full face and one profile. Blagojevich, in other words, is simply following in the footsteps of some of his less illustrious predecessors. Why then has this sordid affair attracted so much extra attention?

He is Blago! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!

"He is Blago! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!"

Well, for one thing, the scandal has touched upon president-elect Barack Obama. In announcing the filing of the criminal complaint and Blagojevich’s arrest, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald emphasized that Obama was not involved. “I should make clear, the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever,” said Fitzgerald. Despite the perfervid efforts of the right-wing dittorati to link Obama with Blagojevich, the two have never been close political allies or social friends, and Obama surely must have been aware of Blagojevich’s longstanding legal problems and his rapidly slipping popularity. It was hardly an accident, for instance, that the governor was not invited to speak at the Democratic Convention in Denver and did not make an appearance at Obama’s Nov. 4 victory rally at Chicago’s Grant Park.

Apart from the potential taint to the nascent Obama administration, this scandal is most noteworthy for the truly epic imbecility of the chief culprit. After the indictment and conviction of the governor’s friend, fundraiser, and all-around political fixer Antoin “Tony” Rezko earlier this year, Blagojevich must have known that he was the next target of federal prosecutors. Yet he apparently spoke freely in his office and on his private phone about blackmailing the Chicago Tribune, shaking down a prominent Chicago pediatric hospital, and auctioning Obama’s senate seat like a prize heifer at the Illinois state fair. Even after the Tribune, on Dec. 5, published a front-page story stating that the feds had obtained secret recordings capturing Blago’s conversations, he was still making those incriminating statements, some of which ended up in the affidavit appended to the criminal complaint.

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“Politics Ain’t Beanbag:” Illinois Edition

Congressional Elections, Politics, US Elections, US Politics
Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Elvis)

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Elvis)

It is common for political candidates to link their opponents with an unpopular or discredited figure from the opponents’ political party. Barack Obama, for instance, has joined John McCain so thoroughly with George W. Bush that McCain had to remind Obama in the last debate that “I am not President Bush.” In 2006, many Republican congressional candidates seemed to be running against Nancy Pelosi rather than their Democratic rivals. And so there is nothing particularly unusual about a television ad, run by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), attacking Marty Ozinga, Republican candidate in IL-11, in which the voice-over intones: “Republican Marty Ozinga and his companies gave 23 grand to Rod Blagojevich.” If true, it’s a contemptible instance of bribery and corruption. The ad, however, omits one small detail: Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, is a Democrat. Yes, that’s right: the DCCC, in an ad supporting Democratic congressional candidate Debbie Halvorson, is accusing Democratic governor Blagojevich of taking a payoff.

The governor wasn’t altogether pleased to be the victim of friendly fire. “Mr. Blagojevich, himself a former congressman, is said to have ‘gone ballistic’ when he first heard of the spot.”

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