Blagojevich always seemed a bit smarmy. Even as my Congressman, when I lived in the Congressional 5th District, I couldn’t understand his motivation for being a politician. Some become politicians to help people, some get elected to help their friends, some just for the power, but Blagojevich apparently did it for the cash.
Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested at their homes this morning in a probe involving the governor’s quest to fill Sen. Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
The charges also include alleged attempts by the governor to influence the Tribune editorial board.
The governor threatened that if the Tribune didn’t support the governor, he wouldn’t approve the sale of Wrigley Field.
The complaint contends Blagojevich threatened to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich.
In Nov. 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization — in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect — Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could “monetize” the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office, the complain alleges.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick 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.
Robert Grant, in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, added: “Many, including myself, thought that the recent conviction of a former governor would usher in a new era of honesty and reform in Illinois politics. Clearly, the charges announced today reveal that the office of the Governor has become nothing more than a vehicle for self-enrichment, unrestricted by party affiliation and taking Illinois politics to a new low.”
Federal agents today also executed search warrants at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich at 4147 N. Ravenswood.
The Tribune adds:
Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year’s end.
Even Blagojevich’s recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and “green lanes” on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The complaint repeatedly makes reference to conversations secretly recorded by federal authorities.
The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. “If they don’t perform, fuck ’em,” Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.
[Copy of the Criminal Complaint here, a 78 page PDF]