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THE HILL: Questions Mount Over Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Absence. “Jackson, a nine-term Illinois Democrat, last appeared on Capitol Hill in early June, His office has issued two statements since then indicating he’s on medical leave — the first citing ‘exhaustion’ and the second suggesting his condition is much more severe. The strange episode has fueled speculation about Jackson’s condition and whereabouts. An almost total absence of information — his congressional office will not answer any questions — has created abundant space for rumor and the most extreme conjecture. This has been stoked by an ethics investigation into allegations that Jackson considered lending campaign favors to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in exchange for the Senate seat then being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.”

FIRST LINDSAY LOHAN, NOW HIM: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. takes medical leave of absence for exhaustion.


K
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is taking a medical leave of absence and undergoing treatment for exhaustion, his office said in a statement released Monday.

“He asks that you respect his family’s privacy,” the statement read. “His offices remain open to serve residents of the Second District.”

Jackson’s medical leave began on June 10, and it is unclear when the nine-term congressman hopes to return to Capitol Hill. Jackson was not in Washington for votes last week. Jackson is currently under a House Ethics Committee investigation for his role in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempts to trade appointment to President Obama’s Senate seat for campaign donations. The son of the famed civil rights leader has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Sorry to hear that’s left him so tired.

JOEL KOTKIN: Illinois: State Of Embarrassment.

Most critics of Barack Obama’s desultory performance the past three years trace it to his supposedly leftist ideology, lack of experience and even his personality quirks. But it would perhaps be more useful to look at the geography — of Chicago and the state of Illinois — that nurtured his career and shaped his approach to politics. Like with George W. Bush and Texas, this is a case where you can’t separate the man from the place.

The Chicago imprint on Obama is unmistakable. His closest advisors are almost all products of the Windy City’s machine politic: ConsigliereValerie Jarrett; his first chief of staff, now Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel; and his current chief of staff, longtime Chicago hackster William Daley, scion of the Windy City’s longtime ruling family.

All these figures arose from a Chicago where corruption is so commonplace that it elicits winks, nods and even a kind of admiration. Since 1973, for example, 27 Chicago Aldermen have been convicted by U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois.

That culture of corruption affects the rest of the state as well. Both Gov. George Ryan (who served from 1999 to 2003 and and his successor Ron Blagojevich have been convicted a major crimes. So have four of the state’s last eight governors. Blagojevich’s felonies are part and parcel of a political climate that also includes the also newly convicted Antonin “Tony” Rezko, a real estate speculator and early key Obama backer, sentenced late last month to a ten-year prison sentence.

Crony capitalism constitutes the essential element of what the legendary columnist John Kass of the Chicago Tribune has labeled both the “Chicago way” and the “Illinois Combine”, not primarily an ideology-driven movement. The political system, he notes, “knows no party, only appetites.”

Read the whole thing.

IT’S NOT THAT EXCLUSIVE A GROUP: Blogojevich Joins Illinois Governors’ Convicted-Felon Club.

HMM: Is Fitzgerald Protecting Obama From the Blagojevich Trial??? Beats me, but it wouldn’t be a shocker.

MARK KIRK WINS OBAMA’S OLD SENATE SEAT according to AP and Andrew Malcolm of the L.A. Times, over Democratic state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Kirk’s win was tangentially paved with this classic YouTube clip.

(This later YouTube moment involving a Giannoulias campaign aide, coming hot on the heels of Bob Etheridge’s video meltdown, didn’t help matters.)

Update: In other Illinois news, Guy Benson tweets, “Heh: Illinois ballot initiative permitting recall of the Governor is passing by a massive margin.”

Rod Blagojevich could not be reached for comment.

Update: Michelle Malkin adds, Kirk’s win is “a victory that should be greeted with muted cheers, given Kirk’s cap-and-tax, big government advocacy on Capitol Hill.”

See also Roger L. Simon’s recent post, “Notes for the Day After: Who Is Fred Upton?”

Update: “If Ted Kennedy’s seat can go to Scott Brown, then Obama’s seat can go to Mark Kirk. And it did. It is, to put it mildly, an embarrassment to the president and his party,” Jennifer Rubin writes.

Read the whole thing.™

AL SHARPTON channels Rod Blagojevich.

JUROR REACTION TO THE BLAGOJEVICH TRIAL: “It was like, ‘Here’s a manual, go fly the space shuttle,” Steve Wlodek, one of the jurors, said Wednesday.

If you’re a prosecutor and your theory of the case is that complex, you probably shouldn’t be prosecuting. And if the law is so inherently complex that a jury can’t understand it, then it’s probably void for vagueness.

THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR MCCAIN, REPORTERS WOULD BE LED AWAY IN CHAINS: And they were right! “A Wall Street Journal reporter attempting to interview an attorney involved in the corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich was handcuffed by security officers this morning at the federal courthouse.”

AIDE: Obama Knew About Blagojevich Plot.

POLITICO: Rod Blagojevich trial rattles insiders. “The corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is already shaping up to be a political circus, promising to lay bare the underbelly of Chicago politics. But while the stakes are clear for Blagojevich – he could be the fourth Illinois governor in 40 years to retire to a federal prison – some of the most powerful Washington insiders are braced for potential political damage from the trial, which begins Thursday.”

JOHN KASS: Blagojevich sends not-so-subtle message to Obama. “Obama’s former patron and real estate fairy, the convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, is a key player in the government’s case. Blagojevich’s aim is to undercut what Rezko has told investigators. And now Blago wants the president to do the undercutting from the witness stand, with the nation riveted to his every recollection of his days in Chicago politics, hanging with Tony and the guys, with the midterm November elections approaching.” Or, you know, to make the case go away.

RESTORING DIGNITY TO THE GOVERNMENT? More on “Naked Lobbying” by Rahm Emanuel.

CASH FOR CLOTURE: “You can’t even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn’t ‘border on immoral’: it drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.”

Plus, Oh, Nebraska. So what exactly was different about what Rod Blagojevich did?

Plus, keeping track of the bribes.

COLOR ME SUSPICIOUS: “The man federal prosecutors pressured to cooperate in the corruption probe of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich died of an apparent aspirin overdose on Saturday, law enforcement sources said.”

IF ED RENDELL ISN’T “GOVERNOR X,” he should probably say or do something pretty definitive soon. But, then, I imagine we’ll find out one way or another soon enough.

UPDATE: A reader thinks it may be Blagojevich. Well, the Daily News ruled out Arnold, but that leaves 49 other suspects. But the talk seems to be focused around Rendell. [Maybe this is why Palin is resigning. People thought she might be ducking a scandal! — ed. I’d rate her as even less likely than Phil Bredesen. But hey, a lesbian hooker-tryst might be just what it takes to get Palin into Hollywood’s good graces!]

CHRIS STIREWALT: Sanford can’t save Democrats on ethics woes.

Obama is a pragmatic politician, and while it took good-government promises to win office as a reformer, winning his next term demands playing the game the Washington way. That includes signing bills rewritten by lobbyists in the dead of night.

Ask Sen. Chris Dodd how that can come back to haunt you.

Dodd is drowning under bad polls in Connecticut because of his insertion of the AIG bonus amendment, a sweetheart mortgage, boatloads of cash from the mortgage companies he was supposed to be regulating, and dubious real estate deals.

And even Dodd looks like a solid citizen compared with Rod Blagojevich’s man in Washington, Sen. Roland Burris. On the House side, Rep. Charlie Rangel has been under investigation for 10 months for tax issues and other alleged misconduct. But that didn’t stop him and many of his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues from going on a Citigroup-funded getaway to St. Maarten last fall.

And everyone on Capitol Hill is still waiting to see what happens to Reps. John Murtha, Peter Visclosky and Jim Moran — the top recipients of donations from a lobbying firm since busted by the FBI in a pay-to-play investigation.

Indeed.

THE CHICAGO WAY: Burris on tape offering a check for Blagojevich.

EDITORIAL: Pelosi Confronts Justice:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working to buffer lawmakers from federal investigators. This is a bad idea. Special legal protections for politicians encourage unethical conduct.

Irvin B. Nathan, general counsel of the House of Representatives, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday about establishing a protocol on how to handle “hopefully rare searches and electronic surveillance involving members of Congress.” Mr. Nathan previously failed to negotiate such an agreement with the George W. Bush administration when Republicans controlled the House. His return to this effort isn’t surprising given the number of congressional Democrats facing accusations of ethical misconduct.

Democrats facing scrutiny include the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, for his close ties to the defense lobby firm PMA Group, which is under federal investigation; House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York about a number of tax issues; Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois over his reported effort to persuade ousted Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich to appoint him to fill President Obama’s former Senate seat; and Rep. Jane Harman of California, who reportedly was taped in 2005 by the National Security Agency purportedly agreeing to help seek leniency for two accused Israeli spies in exchange for help in lobbying her appointment to chair the House Intelligence Committee.

And don’t forget Pete Visclosky, Jim Moran, Allen Mollohan, etc. I know, I know — there are so many it’s hard to keep track!

WELL, YES: Congressional Ethics Still Lacking:

The FBI is again investigating the link between campaign contributions and spending earmarks. But you don’t need a federal probe to determine that Congress isn’t sufficiently serious about the abuse.

The FBI probe is reportedly concentrating on a lobbying group, PMA, and its flamboyant head, Paul Magliochetti, a former aide to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee in the House. . . .

Rep. Murtha is hardly the sole beneficiary. Remember Alan Mollohan? He’s the West Virginia Democratic congressman whose cozy relationship with some campaign donors attracted FBI attention in 2006. According to press reports at the time, investigators were looking into allegations that he steered congressional appropriations to organizations that employed some of his major campaign contributors. Mr. Mollohan still represents West Virginia in the House. And according to a list of defense spending earmarks and campaign contributions compiled by the Seattle Times, as of last year he was still earmarking funds and receiving campaign contributions from the recipients. . . .

Meanwhile, the new Office of Congressional Ethics announced Wednesday it has launched six probes that could result in referrals to the House Ethics Committee. It is known to be looking into allegations that fundraisers for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., offered to raise money for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he would appoint Jackson to the U.S. Senate.

Plus, the irresistible allure of “reciprocal pork.”

CQ POLITICS: Here’s Another Reason Trial Lawyers Love Democrats.

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana, third-ranking Democrat on Rep. John P. Murtha’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee — yesterday asked the Federal Elections Commission for permission to use funds from his campaign committee to pay the lawyers he’s hired to represent him in what has been reported to be an investigation of fundraising practices.

Given Visclosky’s anemic first-quarter fundraising effort — he raised just $11,800 from individuals in amounts over $200 this year, compared to $266,250 he raised in the first quarter of 2007 — it’s a sure bet that at least some of the money he’ll use to pay his lawyers will be funds he rolled over from earlier campaign fundraising efforts.

That left-over money has to include money that came from officers, employees, and clients of the now defunct lobbying shop PMA Group in previous years.

This is exactly the same thing that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich last week asked for permission to do — use campaign funds (allegedly obtained illegally) to pay the legal bills incurred in defending himself against charges that he raised money illegally.

There’s a certain symmetry here.

HEH: Flashback: Jan Schakowsky’s Close Ties to Rod Blagojevich. Full story here: Big donor, introduced his candidacy in 2001, ran his get-out-the-vote operation in 2002? And she calls the Tea Party protests “despicable?” Sounds like the attitude of a burglar toward the Neighborhood Watch. . . .

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: Not much home-state support:

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd appears to have looked everywhere but his home state to fuel what pundits anticipate will be one of the most hotly contested races in the nation in 2010.

The five-term incumbent reported raising just $4,250 from five Connecticut residents during the first three months of the year while raking in $604,745 from nearly 400 individuals living outside the state.

While incumbents often turn to special interests for early campaign fundraising, Dodd’s out-of-state total seems unusually high and comes at a time when he has been plagued by poor approval ratings among state voters.

Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign contributions, said that Dodd’s low percentage of in-state funding strikes him as unusual.

Me, too. Plus this:

Gary Rose, a professor of politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, said that the campaign statement and fundraising results reinforce the negative image of Dodd as a Washington insider.

“Once again there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of the senator and his political behavior. I think it helps explain why so many Connecticut residents are becoming increasingly disillusioned with him,” Rose said. “He is beginning to personify, in many ways, the establishment.”

Gee, do you think? (Via Political Wire.)

The upside — he’s still doing better than Roland Burris! Well, a bit.

WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED:

More than a year after the House created the Office of Congressional Ethics, the quasi-independent panel is beginning to show signs that it is tackling investigative duties assigned to it by lawmakers, some of whom had raised questions about what the office was doing.

It was disclosed last week — though not by the ethics office, which is bound by secrecy rules — that the office had begun reviewing possible contacts between associates of Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and then-Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich over naming Jackson to Barack Obama ’s old Senate seat. . . .

Those confidentiality rules make it difficult for outside groups to evaluate whether the new ethics office is being effective, said Meredith McGehee, the policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. . . . For example, Republicans have been aggressively pushing for investigations of powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman Rep. John P. Murtha , D-Pa., and his ties to The PMA Group. Clients of PMA — a defense lobbyist — received earmarks thanks to Murtha, who garnered campaign contributions from those with ties to the firm, including its founder and his relatives.

However, because of the confidentiality rules imposed on the ethics office, it is unlikely the public will know anytime soon if the office is investigating Murtha, unless there is a news leak.

I’m not holding my breath.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Under tyranny of everyday hypocrisy.

The fatal flaw in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged schemes of pay-to-play politics could come down to the quid being too close to the quo. Had the separation been wider, it would have been business as usual among politicians in Springfield or Washington. Sweetheart deals happen all the time in state capitols and in Congress, where politicians are more circumspect. Examples abound:

•Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got two sweetheart, low-rate mortgages from Countrywide Financial Corp. for his home in Connecticut and condo in Washington. . . .

•Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania unilaterally awarded a lucrative no-bid contingency fee contract to the Houston law firm of Bailey, Perrin & Bailey, which had contributed more than $90,000 to the governor’s 2006 re-election bid.

•Michelle Obama was employed by the University of Chicago Medical Center. Her husband, as a U. S. senator, requested a $1 million earmark for the center.

The gazillion dollars spent on earmarks for bridges back home are rife with quid separating quo just long enough to appear as constituent democracy in action. When Dodd, organized labor, Rendell, Obama and Congress do it, it’s called “democracy,” or “lobbying” or “free speech.” When Blagojevich does it, with the quid too close to the quo, it’s called “a crime.”

Read the whole thing.

IT’S LIKE IT’S NOT MEANT TO ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING: Slow Start for New Congressional Ethics Office.

The slow pace in getting the outside ethics office geared up also shows a larger problem House and Senate Democrats have on the ethics front — especially with troubled lawmakers such as Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) — and that has party strategists privately concerned about a backlash in 2010. . . . Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has been under investigation by the ethics committee for six months over his personal finances, including whether he improperly used his powerful post to help raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. Murtha has been linked to a criminal probe of the now defunct PMA Group, a lobbying firm that collapsed after its office was raided by the FBI in November.

In the Senate, Democrats Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Roland Burris of Illinois are being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, as well. Dodd is being scrutinized for his VIP mortgage deal from Countrywide, while Burris is being investigated for his ties to indicted former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Yeah, it’s as if there’s some kind of ethical problem that’s not being addressed.

THIS WILL MAKE PEOPLE MISS BLAGOJEVICH: Illinois Governor to Propose 50% Increase In State Income Tax.

ASSOCIATED PRESS: “A sports consultant told an aide to Rod Blagojevich that Barack Obama’s election presented ‘opportunities’ for the then-governor.”

(Via NewsAlert, which has more background).

WASHINGTON POST: Under Fire, Burris Refuses to Resign Senate Seat.

Plus, Roland Burris, the former senator? “Or maybe he was doomed when Blagojevich appointed him using these words, ‘Please don’t allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man.'”

ROLAND BURRIS: I’m no Rod Blagojevich.

CALLING ON ROLAND BURRIS TO RESIGN: “Freshman Sen. Roland Burris released an affidavit on Saturday that contradicts his statements last month to a House committee investigating Blagojevich’s impeachment.”

YOU CAN JUST SAY “I FORGOT!” “Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show. . . . Burris’ statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.”

We’re seeing an awful lot of that these days.

IN THE STIMULUS BILL, A 2 BILLION DOLLAR EARMARK — obtained by Rod Blagojevich! You can’t make this stuff up. (Bumped).

THE CASE AGAINST impeaching Rod Blagojevich. So, does anybody think the law and evidence in this case matter to the outcome?

Will Blagojevich’s impeachment be fair?
Yes. Due Process will be meticulously observed.
In Illinois? Are you kidding?
I’m voting present on this one.
  
pollcode.com free polls

BLAGOJEVICH: The gun that didn’t smoke.

JOHN AND BARACK AND TED AND CAROLINE.

UPDATE: What Maureen Dowd misses is that both Blagojevich and Paterson rolled Obama on Senate picks. And rubbed it in, hard.

Related thoughts from Don Surber: “Sen. Gillibrand’s major crime seems to be that she is 15 years younger and better looking than Miss Dowd. The biggest obstacle a woman faces in seeking a high office is other women.” Speaking of rubbing it in.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kennedy Family “Furious” with Paterson.

RICH PEOPLE VS. POLITICIANS:

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with about $60 billion in assets each, are America’s richest men. With all that money, what can they force us to do? Can they take our house to make room so that another person can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run retirement Ponzi scheme called Social Security? Can Buffett and Gates force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Unless they are granted power by politicians, rich people have little power to force us to do anything.

A GS-9, or a lowly municipal clerk, has far more life-and-death power over us. It’s they to whom we must turn to for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and myriad other activities. It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable. Coercive power goes a long way toward explaining political corruption.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s hawking of Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel’s alleged tax-writing favors; former Rep. William Jefferson’s business bribes; and the Jack Abramoff scandal are mere pimples on the government corruption landscape. We can think of these and similar acts as jailable illegal corruption. They pale in comparison to what’s for all practical purposes the same thing, but simply legal corruption.

Read the whole thing.

BLAGOJEVICH UPDATE: “Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s official calendar shows he met with a top union official in his Chicago office the day before Barack Obama was elected president — just as federal prosecutors say the governor was scheming to trade Obama’s Senate seat, possibly for a cushy union job. The meeting with Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, also was attended by Tom Balanoff, president of the Illinois chapter of the union, which has been Blagojevich’s largest campaign contributor.”

HMM: AP Exclusive: Calendar shows key Ill. gov meetings. Note this: “On Sept. 2, Blagojevich was scheduled to have breakfast with investor J.B. Pritzker, whose sister is Obama supporter Penny Pritzker.”

MSNBC:Rangel Watch: Charlie Rangel is still defending himself from allegations of fundraising improprieties. Given the Blagojevich situation and now the Richardson chatter, is Rangel even in more trouble? Will he have to temporarily give up his Ways and Means gavel at this critical time?”

INSTA-POLL: Rate the scandals!

Which scandal is worst for the Democrats?
Bill Richardson’s pay-to-play scandal.
Bill and Hillary’s questionable donations.
Chris Dodd’s iffy Countrywide mortgage.
Charles Rangel’s many scandals.
Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris, and the Chicago Way.
The shoe that hasn’t dropped yet.
  
pollcode.com free polls

OKAY, THIS IS A SHOCKER: Richardson Withdraws Name as Commerce Secretary-Designee. “New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name from consideration as commerce secretary for President-elect Barack Obama, citing an ongoing investigation about business dealings in his state.” I guess there’s more to that scandal than I had realized.

Boy, with this, Blagojevich, etc., this Obama “honeymoon” is looking kinda rocky.

UPDATE: Reader Mark Shelden writes: “If we include the aborted Pritzker nomination, it seems like Obama will have tied Clinton’s AG selection process for most withdrawn nominations prior to an actual confirmation hearing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed Clinton though.”

MORE: “There is unrest in the Senate.”

Plus, going beyond Jerry Springer. (Bumped).

AT THE L.A. TIMES, more on Harry Reid and Rod Blagojevich.

UPDATE: Reid’s certainly getting hit over this, even at Democratic Underground:

On one hand, we have Dems threatening not to seat an African American duly appointed to serve in the US Senate by a sitting governor; an African American who has worked his way up from local office through statewide office before this appointment.

On the other hand, we have Dems cheering the naming of a wealthy white woman who has never held public office, interviews badly, but has an important surname and the “right” pedigree.

No further comment needed.

Ouch.

AKHIL AMAR AND JOSH CHAFETZ say that the Senate has the power to exclude Roland Burris. Meanwhile, Ann Althouse has some thoughts.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh: “I have a very high opinion of Amar and Chafetz, but here I think they’re mistaken, and I think Brian Kalt (Concurring Opinions) has it generally right: The initial misconduct on Blagojevich’s part doesn’t carry over to a bribe-free appointment of the person he ultimately appointed.”

THANKS TO ROD BLAGOJEVICH, a not-so-happy New Year for Harry Reid.

L.A. TIMES: A Year of Triumphs and Scandals for the SEIU: “The year might have ended on a purely triumphant note for Andy Stern, who heads the nation’s fastest-growing labor union and played a key supporting role in President-elect Barack Obama’s drive for the White House. Instead, Stern has seen the Service Employees International Union jarred by a spending scandal and internecine feuding, and more recently by the favor-selling investigation that led to the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.”

KASS ON BLAGOJEVICH: For sheer brazenness, nobody surpasses Rod.

THE HILL: “Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment to President-elect Obama’s Senate seat has prompted a flurry of legal questions about the Senate’s ability to block it.”

Brian Kalt writes: “Under Powell v. McCormack, the ability of the Senate to exclude someone would seem to be limited to judging that he hadn’t won the election (not applicable here) or that he is not qualified (30 years old, a resident of Illinois, and a U.S. citizen for nine years). Their discomfort with Burris’s appointer doesn’t enter into it.” Eugene Volokh agrees.

THE CBS FOLKS SEND THIS TRANSCRIPT of Bobby Rush on The Early Show, discussing Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama’s seat.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, co-host: We’re joined now also from Chicago by Congressman Bobby Rush, whom you just heard from in the piece. Good morning, Congressman.

Representative BOBBY RUSH (Democrat, Illinois): Good morning, Maggie. How are you?

RODRIGUEZ: I’m fine, thank you. Yesterday we heard you say that they shouldn’t hang and lynch the appointee to punish the appointer. But do you believe that this is the way the only African-American Senator should be seated? Tainted, rightly or not, by a scandal and against the objections of most of his own party?

Rep. RUSH: Well, let me just say this, you know, the recent history of our nation has shown us that sometimes there could be individuals and there could be situations where school children–where you have officials standing in the doorway of school children. You know, I’m talking about all of us back in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m talking about George Wallace, Bull Connors and I’m sure that the US Senate don’t want to see themselves placed in the same position. I know my friend Harry Reid…

RODRIGUEZ: But it’s not just the Senate, Congressman. It’s Barack Obama who is African-American also who disagrees with this.

Rep. RUSH: Well, I think what needs–what needs to happen now is that all these folks who are opposed to Governor Blagojevich, they need to take a chill pill. We’re still a nation of laws and I believe that Roland Burris and Governor Blagojevich, they’re on solid constitutional grounds in terms of them being–of him being selected. I think that the US Senate will have to accept him. Let me just say this, you know, the real political tragedy, the real political issue, the moral issue that we face is why in the US Senate there are no African-Americans? There are two Asians, three Latinos, 11 women, but no African-Americans. And I just must applaud the people of the state of Illinois because in the last 150 years, we have sent two of the three African-Americans to the Senate over a period of 150 years. Now something is really, really wrong with that. So are you saying is this–is this…

RODRIGUEZ: But shouldn’t Governor–let me interrupt you for a minute and ask you this.

Rep. RUSH: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: Shouldn’t Governor Blagojevich maybe have given Roland Burris the chance to go in as the only African-American senator in a legitimate way that everyone would approve of?

Rep. RUSH: Well…

RODRIGUEZ: Is he being selfish here by appointing him this way? By remaining so defiant?

Rep. RUSH: Well, you know, he has the constitutional responsibility as governor of the state of Illinois to appoint. The General Assembly met a week or so ago, they passed the buck, they shifted, they punted, they did not declare a special election. Let me just say this. On January the 20th, President-elect Obama wants on his desk the Congress to deliver to him a stimulus package, hundreds of millions of dollars, and the people of the state of Illinois should not be deprived of a representative in the US Senate to be at the table to help decide where that money should go.

RODRIGUEZ: All right.

Rep. RUSH: We have many other issues and I just think that it is incumbent upon the US Senate and President Reid and others to make sure that Illinois is not short-changed as it relates to representation.

RODRIGUEZ: OK, Congressman Rush.

Looks like we’ll have fun in the new year. Plus, “President Reid?” I know it’s just a verbal stumble, but don’t scare me like that.

TOBY HARNDEN: The race card is played: Don’t “hang or lynch” the black man chosen by Rod Blagojevich.

A BAD DAY FOR HARRY: Reid Balks at Blagojevich Senate Choice.

SOME EXCITEMENT FOR THE NEW CONGRESS: Blagojevich will name Burris to Obama’s seat: “Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.” Will Harry Reid seat Burris, allowing Blagojevich the last laugh? Or will he refuse to, putting the Democratic Senate in the position of saying no to an African-American? Blagojevich has certainly managed to stink up the place further, anyway.

UPDATE: A delightful Burris tidbit.

HMM: Emanuel and Jarrett Will Testify, And The Blagojevich Impeachment Trial Will Be Delayed. Hard to see this as good news for Obama.

NEWSDAY: With Rash of Scandals, Trust Is Gone. “In Congress, prominent members such as House Ways and Means chair Charles Rangel, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson are either accused of malfeasance, officially charged with corruption or already convicted. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been accused of multiple acts of corruption, including extorting cash or jobs for filling President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. All of this is creating a growing sense of mistrust. But then Americans have always been suspicious of big institutions that can exert a lot of power.”

So how about a little more suspicion of government expansion disguised as “stimulus?”

JENNIFER RUBIN: Blagogate and Obama: A List of Open Questions. “Let’s see if the mainstream media ever gets around to demanding answers.” Hey, his campaign issued a report clearing itself. That should be enough for anyone.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Best Headline, from Andrew Malcolm at the L.A. Times: Obama team probe of Obama team finds no Obama team impropriety.

HMM: Obama Interviewed in Blagojevich Probe. Much more at Hot Air.

UPDATE: Much more at Gateway Pundit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Huffington Post: Emanuel Heads To Africa As Blagojevich Report Drops.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Illinois Scandal Spotlights SEIU’s Use of Political Tactics.

Critics say SEIU’s leaders cut too many deals with politicians and companies, contributing to an atmosphere that lacks transparency.

The Illinois situation fuels a perception that the SEIU has an “inside track” with elected officials, says Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, in Worcester, Mass. “Every union will use political influence to make organizing easier,” he said. “They may have gone beyond the usual influence.”

Few places more clearly illustrate this than Illinois. The SEIU contributed about $1.8 million to Mr. Blagojevich’s two campaigns for governor, in 2002 and 2006, and was his top contributor in the second election. Critics have long charged that it is suspicious that several big SEIU contributions to Mr. Blagojevich occurred close to when he acted in ways that benefited the union.

Read the whole thing.

JOE CONASON: What’s Obama hiding about Blagojevich? “Probably nothing. But by mishandling the scandal, his team has allowed questions to be raised where there were none.” Or at least not as many. Plus, “obfuscation at best and prevarication at worst.”

UPDATE: “I told you so.”

BLAGOJEVICH, RANGEL, ET AL., lead the London Times to observe: Seat for sale scandal causes wider worries over American corruption:

The scandal washing around Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Governor, has sent ripples of unease through an American political establishment that has long traded favours or appointments for campaign donations.

Some suspect that the only difference between the traditional deal-making that lubricates Washington and the effort to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat was that the Governor got caught. Mr Blagojevich’s lawyer, Ed Genson, said yesterday that the case was “much ado about nothing” as he declared that his client would fight the charges and delay a decision on filling the seat. Others are asking if Congressman Charlie Rangel will be subjected to a FBI inquiry for allegedly backing a tax break to Nabors Industries in return for contributions from the company’s chief executive to an education programme bearing the Democrat’s name.

More on Rangel here. Also in The Hill. And don’t forget Chris Dodd and Countrywide!

IF THE MACHINE GETS MAD ENOUGH AT HIM, THAT MIGHT NOT TAKE LONG: Blagojevich Vows to Fight Charges With ‘Last Breath’.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Democrats Are The New Ethics Story: “Democrats now have an image problem. The real issue isn’t so much Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Senate-seat auction, as it is the focus that his scandal has directed toward a wider assortment of Democratic troubles. . . . The Chicago Tribune published a new story about Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who racked up $420,000 through a series of suspicious real-estate deals. Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, came under scrutiny this fall for questionable earmarking. West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan has been under investigation for a separate earmarking mess. And then there’s Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who has yet to answer questions about the sweetheart mortgage deal he received from Countrywide.” And Charles Rangel, who’s a one-man ethics problem!

SUN-TIMES: Deeper involvement for Emanuel. “President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned.”

IT’S A FAIR COP: A reader emails: “Just a reminder point that you (and many of us) were looking forward to less politics after the election. The quantity of posts regarding politics doesn’t seem to have decreased much. I really appreciate your work on your blog.”

Yeah, what with Blagojevich, Holder, etc., there’s just a lot more going on than I’d expected. I’ll try to post more non-political stuff!

MATTHEW KAMINSKI: Don’t expect global Obamania to last. “One hates to spoil a good party, but here’s a bet that’s far safer these days than a U.S. Treasury bill: Even with Obama at the White House, they won’t really like us any more than before. It’s not because America’s not a special country, a City upon a Hill, from the Pilgrims to Obama, the Blagojevich couple and other American horrors notwithstanding. It’s because it is. And as ever, our earnest assertion of our superior ontological uniqueness–not to mention its reality in and of itself–is exactly what always grated on the unfriendlies grouped together under the banner of anti-Americanism. . . . The departure of George Bush will change the mood music in America’s relations with the world, but–here’s the heartbreaker for our romantics–it won’t change how most people see America. Because, for ‘anti’ masses, it’s not really about us; it’s about them.”

BLAGOJEVICH UPDATE: Illinois Supreme Court Rejects AG Madigan’s Motion To Remove Blagojevich. As both Ann Althouse and I noted, it was a pretty weak motion.

HOT AIR: Holder holding out on Blagojevich connections.

MEGAN MCARDLE: “On a somewhat related tangent, here’s the question that really bothers me about Blagojevich: what if the reason that he thought he could get away with it is that a lot of other politicians he knows about have?” That seems plausible . . . .

WHY BLAGOJEVICH MUST GO: Source: Ill. gov nixed job for Jackson Jr.’s wife.

Shortly after his 2002 election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich told Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. he didn’t appoint the congressman’s wife as lottery director because he had refused him a $25,000 campaign donation, a person familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Blagojevich went out of his way to say, ‘You know I was considering your wife for the lottery job and the $25,000 you didn’t give me? That’s why she’s not getting the job,'” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing federal investigation. . . . Jackson has been identified as one of the candidates Blagojevich was considering for the seat, and a criminal complaint said his supporters were willing to raise $1.5 million for the governor if he picked the congressman.

Even for Chicago, that’s a bit crude.

“I DON’T WANT YOU TO WASTE YOUR QUESTION.”

UPDATE: Rick Moran: Rahm Emanuel still won’t come out of his house.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rahm Emanuel on a milk carton.

MORE: Chuck Simmins emails: “Rahm Emanuel is wherever Joe Biden is. Barry Obama has a home for those people. Suspect JFK and Elvis are also there.”

Politico:

During today’s press conference, President-elect Baracj Obama brushed off a question from Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick about the Blagojevich scandal, and what interaction any advisers had with the Illinois governor.

“I don’t want you to waste your question,” Obama said.

McCormick asked another Blago-related question, and Obama said he wouldn’t confirm a report in the Tribune from this weekend. Obama also said that the U.S. attorney’s office asked his team to withhold an internal review until next week.

After a few attempts, the reporter finally followed up by asking who had the better jump shot: Obama or incoming education secretary Arne Duncan?

The interaction with McCormick stood out from previous meetings with the press. And speaking about the exchange on MSNBC shortly after, NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that reporters have not been aggressive enough during Obama’s post-election pressers.

“Our job is to hold him to account,” Whitaker said, adding that he thinks “we’re going to have to get tougher.”

We’ll see if that happens.

IS THE STATE OF ILLINOIS airbrushing Blagojevich? That’s the charge, anyway. Great picture of Obama and Blagojevich, regardless. Shame to see it disappeared.

SUN-TIMES: Former Blagojevich adviser Christopher Kelly to plead guilty.

Plus, Judge delays Rezko sentencing. Hmm. (Via NewsAlert).

UPDATE: Pricing a Senate seat.

INSTA-POLL:

Has the Blagojevich Scandal Peaked?
Yeah, the fun’s mostly over.
No, there’s an Imelda’s closet worth of other shoes to drop.
Sorry, I’m busy following Chris Dodd and Charles Rangel.
  
pollcode.com free polls

STEVE CHAPMAN: Obama’s ‘My Pet Goat’ Moment. “Why did it take Barack Obama 48 hours to renounce Rod Blagojevich?”

MICHAEL SILENCE: The Nothing But Caroline Network: “Clearly, NBC Nightly News is running the U.S. Senate campaign of Caroline Kennedy. In a jaw-dropping move, her run for the office was the network’s lead story Monday evening. The American auto industry is on the verge of bankruptcy, President-elect Obama makes key cabinet appointments, Illinois is impeaching its governor and some fatcat bilks more than $50 billion from the rich and not so famous, and NBC chooses to launch Kennedy’s campaign?”

UPDATE: Claudia Rosett on Caroline Kennedy and the Banana Republic of New York:

When you’re done reading the Blagojevich complaint, with its attendant insights into Illinois politics, spare a thought for New York — where Caroline Kennedy wants a sit-down with Governor David Paterson, with the aim of claiming Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

Is there anything wrong with that picture?

Well, let’s imagine for a moment that it’s not New York State we’re talking about, but some province – call it the State of Banana — in some nameless republic rife with dynastic politics.

Read the whole thing.

JOHN KASS ON BLAGOJEVICH: Governor has friends who also have friends.

ILLINOIS: Obama: Probe shows no contact in Ill. gov scandal. “President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate.” Well, that should put those rumors to rest.

UPDATE: Rasmussen: “Forty five percent (45%) of U.S. voters say it is likely President-elect Obama or one of his top campaign aides was involved in the unfolding Blagojevich scandal in Illinois, including 23% who say it is Very Likely.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Chad Olson writes: “Regarding Obama being in the clear because his own lawyer said so. Obama should ask Cheney how that worked for him in the Plame mess.” Well, Cheney was never charged!

DEALING WITH BLAGOJEVICH: A prediction of “chaos” in the Illinois legislature.

BELDAR PREDICTS: Blagojevich won’t be impeached until convicted in court. That would be bad news for Obama, if so.

UPDATE: Bad reviews for A.G. Lisa Madigan: “The legal argument in the brief is embarrassingly inadequate.”

L.A. TIMES: Pressure builds on Obama to release his Blagojevich contacts.

UPDATE: Obama’s Bert Lance? Not sure that quite fits.

EVEN CHICAGO’S CROOKS are appalled by Blagojevich.

A BLAGOJEVICH ROUNDUP, from Ellen Podgor at the White Collar Crime blog.

DISHONEST POLITICIANS in Massachusetts:

According to an affidavit, the agents recorded Dianne Wilkerson, a longtime state senator, accepting a $1,000 bribe from a constituent who wanted her help getting a liquor license for a proposed nightclub called Dejavu.

The evidence helped lead to Ms. Wilkerson’s arrest in October on charges of taking more than $23,000 in bribes, and one piece in particular — a photo of the senator appearing to stuff cash up her sweater and into her bra — has become a symbol of broader problems on Beacon Hill. . . . Ms. Wilkerson and the councilor, Charles Turner, were only the latest in a string of public employees charged with corruption here this year, and the arrests have stirred anger among voters and hand-wringing on Beacon Hill. Within days of Ms. Wilkerson’s arrest, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed a “task force on public integrity” that will recommend changes to the state’s ethics and lobbying rules by year’s end. . . .

While the current scandals are not as outsized as the case involving Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, political observers here say that distrust of government officials has not been so acute in years.

If you don’t trust ’em, then don’t trust ’em with so much of your money. Massachusetts voters had a chance to do something about that in November, but didn’t. I wonder how many are regretting it now?

Meanwhile, the “task force on integrity” response is right out of the book.

EMBARRASSING: AG Lisa Madigan’s argument to the Illinois Supreme Court about ousting Governor Blagojevich. Illinois state government is looking like one big clown show.

MICHAEL BARONE: Rod Blagojevich, the Stupidest Governor in the Country, Puts Obama in a Bad Light. “I’ve long since come to the conclusion that Rod Blagojevich is clearly the stupidest governor in all of our 50 states, and he may be the stupidest governor I’ve had occasion to write about in the four decades when I’ve been co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.” How did he become Governor? Family connections: “Blagojevich is the son-in-law of 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman Dick Mell. Ward committeemen are hugely important in Chicago politics: Dan Rostenkowski and his father had been the 32nd ward committeemen from 1935 to 1995; the ward committeemen from the 11th ward since some time in the 1940s have been Richard J. Daley, Richard M. Daley and John Daley; the 13th ward committeeman Bill Lipinski, retiring suddenly from Congress in 2004, was able to get the Democratic nomination for his son Dan Lipinski from a group of ward committeemen despite the fact that Dan Lipinski was a political science professor at the University of Tennessee and hadn’t lived in Chicago for years.”

OOPS: Rahm Emanuel, Blagojevich staff talked.

Meanwhile, Jim Lindgren offers a defense of Obama, Emanuel, et al.

RANGEL HITS OBAMA CLOSER TO HOME:

It certainly didn’t take long for scandal to rear its ugly head in the new era of Democratic control. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich saw to that, and in spectacular fashion.

But while most attention is fixed on the Blagojevich scandal — coming as it does in President-elect Barack Obama’s home state and replete as it is with enough tape-recorded talk of peddling a Senate seat, shaking down contributors and blackmailing journalists to make even FBI agents blush — it may not be the most troublesome one for the new president.

His more vexing problem could turn out to be that other, quieter scandal dogging Democrats. That’s the one involving Rep. Charles Rangel, head of the House Ways and Means Committee.

There’s actually more than one scandal, but read the whole thing for the details.

ANN ALTHOUSE ON Using the courts to oust Blagojevich on the theory that he’s “disabled” from serving as governor. “Given that ‘conviction on impeachment’ is one of the specified reasons for inability to serve, using this procedure as an alternative to the impeachment process looks like an abusive power grab.”

I served on a commission to revise the Tennessee Constitution for gubernatorial disability — summary here — and I agree with Ann Althouse. The way you get rid of a crooked governor is via impeachment. Why play games here? If the case is so obvious, that shouldn’t take long.

UPDATE: Fiscal collateral damage?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Contradictions.

MORE: Fundraiser emerges as key event in Illinois probe.

SO, DO WE BELIEVE IN RAHM EMANUEL’S INNOCENCE, OR NOT? Personally — not that I have any inside knowledge — I doubt that Emanuel has done anything actually wrong. (He may conceivably have done something that might be considered a crime in Fitzgeraldland, but you could say that about pretty much anyone). Emanuel’s smart, as even his critics acknowledge, and surely too smart to get sucked into Blagojevich’s lowbrow deal-making. At least, I’d be surprised to hear otherwise.

FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE U.S.: Nigerians look at the Blagojevich scandal and are jealous:

“Look at the Governor of the state of Illinois in the United States, Rod Blagojevich. The man who wants to sell Obama’s Senatorial seat to the highest bidder. He is definitely going to jail. The FBI evidence against him is overwhelming”

“The man should have been a Governor in Nigeria. What he has done, trying to cut a deal, and arrange something for himself, is standard and familiar practice in Nigeria. In the 1999 elections, some Godfathers collected money openly from aspirants and supported the highest bidder. In every election, most Nigerian voters support only the highest bidder. In Oyo state, Adedibu practically sold the Governorship seat to Ladoja. When the man refused to pay, he got him kicked out. Ngige also lost his seat because he refused to pay.”

“But the Americans are telling us that you cannot sell elective positions. It is not a cash and carry affair. And that whoever does so, is under the big watchful eyes of Big Brother. Where is the Nigerian equivalent of the FBI?”

“They are busy eating pepper soup and acting as bodyguards and house boys to the same enemies of the state that they are supposed to be watching.”

Not a cash-and-carry affair. Too bad word didn’t reach Chicago . . . .

IT’S A SINISTER LIBERTARIAN PLOT TO DISCREDIT GOVERNMENT: Rod Blagojevich is actually Nick Gillespie.

But getting Dan Rostenkowski of all people to speak out in defense of Chicago politics was surely the masterstroke. Brilliant!

MICKEY KAUS: “Hierarchy Recalibration! Let the record show that Rod Blagojevich, sitting governor of Illinois, the fifth largest state in the union, was apparently willing to sell a U.S. Senate seat and his soul, and abandon his office, for a job paying less money ($250,000-$300,000) than is made by several hosts on National Public Radio.” In Blagojevich’s defense, the soul was used, and in poor condition.

DEMOCRATS HIT ROUGH PATCH: “Over a period of fewer than 10 days, Democrats have seen their nominee go down in defeat in the Georgia Senate runoff – eliminating the prospect of a filibuster-proof majority – lost two winnable House races in Louisiana and witnessed House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) sink deeper into ethics trouble. Then there’s the still-unfolding Illinois Senate debacle, which exposed Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s tawdry attempts to auction off President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat and forced Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to hold a press conference Wednesday denying any inappropriate discussions with the governor.”

And there’s still the Chris Dodd “Friends of Angelo” business simmering in the background. . . .

WHILE OBAMA TALKS, Tony Rezko sings!

UPDATE: Rahm Emanuel ducks questions.

Related item here.

MORE: A huge distraction at the worst possible moment!

NYT: THE S.E.I.U., BLAGOJEVICH, AND OBAMA: Union Linked to Corruption Scandal. Final sentence: “Mr. Stern has named a panel of experts to develop a tougher ethical code for the union.” Sounds like they’ve read the book!

MICHELLE MALKIN AND I talk about Blagojevich, Obama, Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, William Jefferson, Eliot Spitzer, and a host of other political and moral leaders, on PJTV.

JOHN KASS: By Chicago standards, Blagojevich isn’t crazy.

Plus, Emanuel and Blagojevich.

UPDATE: Obama’s Whitewater?

OOPS: Blagojevich Scandal Claims Another Victim.