Illinois' Governor Rod Blagojevich was wisked away from his Ravenswood neighborhood home early this morning to be formally indcicted with federal corruption charges. It appears that the Governor and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were looking to cash in on opportunities that being governor provides, including the ability to name the next senator from the great state of Ilinois, and wanted to make hay while the sun was shining.
U.S. Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, who was fortunately not Obama's choice for Attorney General, will be quite busy making the government's case out of the assortment of crimes and misdemeanors in which Rod the Mod and company has allegedly involved thwemselves. The arrests are part of a three-year probe of "pay-to-play politics" in the governor's administration. The complaint by the FBI says each man was arrested on two charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.
News sources say Blagojevich and Harris "allegedly conspired to sell U.S. Senate appointment, engaged in pay-to-play schemes and threatened to withhold state assistance to Tribune Company for Wrigley Field to induce (the) purge of newspaper editorial writers."
"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Fitzgerald's office said the 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was taped conspiring to sell or trade Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife, including an annual salary of $250,000-$300,000 at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.
They also allege Blagojevich is heard on tape demanding a corporate board seat for his wife worth as much as $150,000 a year; promises of campaign funds, including cash up front; and the post of secretary of health and human services or an ambassadorship for himself in the Obama administration.
The Chicago Tribune quoted him as saying on Monday, “whether you tape me privately or publicly, I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful and the things I’m interested in are always lawful.”
The AP reports that Blagojevich considered appointing himself. The affidavit said that as late as Nov. 3, he told his deputy governor that if "they're not going to offer me anything of value I might as well take it."
"I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain," Blagojevich allegedly said later that day, according to the affidavit, which also quoted him as saying in a remark punctuated by profanity that the seat was "a valuable thing — you just don't give it away for nothing."
Here's the US Attorney's Office and FBI's statement.