Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested today on charges related to his decision on whom to appoint to President-Elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.
Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
A press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reads as follows (via FireDogLake):
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:
— a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
— placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
— promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
— a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions,” he added….
In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “if . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.” Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”
Illinois law allows for Gov. Blagojevich to step out of the way and allow the Lt. Governor to appoint the President-Elect’s successor. It is, at this point, likely impossible for Blagojevich to appoint a replacement for Obama without creating the appearance of corruption. The Senate may even move to refuse to seat the replacement.