Illinois Governor Arrested for Trying to Sell Obama Senate Seat
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, have been arrested and charged with a multitude of crimes involving everything from a "pay-to-play" scheme for state contracts to his attempt to sell the open Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for "financial considerations" for the governor and his wife.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald calls the breadth and depth of charges "staggering." Here's a sampling:
On the issue of the U.S. Senate selection, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.
Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family, and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs, and state contracts.
"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.
"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."
In any other state, this would be simply unbelievable, or perhaps considered a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence to have such breathtaking and brazen corruption reveal itself at the highest levels of state government.
But all of this occurred in the state of Illinois, where the arrest of Blagojevich makes it four governors in recent history * who have been arrested and charged with wrongdoing while in office.