Feds: Illinois Governor put Obama’s Senate seat up for sale


Here’s the summary from Congress Daily (subscription only):

Federal prosecutors say Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich engaged in a “staggering” conspiracy to sell or trade the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama in return for jobs and other personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti. Blogojevich and Chief of Staff John Harris were arrested this morning. A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat. “I want to make money,” the affidavit quotes the governor as saying. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement this morning that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.” The charges, he said, “allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator.” A federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the allegations include that the governor took money from at least one individual in connection with naming a successor to Obama. Blagojevich is also accused of threatening to withhold state money from the Tribune Co. efforts to sell Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs unless the Chicago Tribune fired editorial board members who criticized the governor. It’s one thing to try to sell a Senate seat, but even the most hardheaded pols know better than to pick a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel.

My first reaction is that, if the charges are true, Blagojevich got lazy. Like some Philly mobsters and pols in the 1980s who tried to extort a developer for $1 million up front rather than get it the old fashioned way through kickbacks, inflated sweetheart contracts for friend, and other pettier forms of corruption, the Illinois governor opted for the one big payoff rather than patiently waiting for dozens of smaller ones. It will be interesting to see whether the legal defense is that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is attempting to criminalize olitics as usual, but that of course is a long way off…