The Governor of Illinois and his chief of staff have been arrested by Federal agents. They were awakened in their homes at 06:15 and taken to FBI headquarters, and will reportedly be accused of wide-ranging acts of corruption and influence-peddling. The Chicago Tribune writes:
In one charge related to the appointment of a senator to replace Barack Obama, prosecutors allege that Blagojevich sought appointment for himself 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.
Another charge alleges Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of him in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co. …
“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.”
CBS Chicago has further details: “Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They were charged in a two-count criminal complaint that was sworn out on Sunday and unsealed today following their arrests”
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. …
On November 7, while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is “financially” hurting, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the “financial security” of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich “politically viable.” Blagojevich stated, “I want to make money,” adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges. …
The charges include historical allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with others – including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others – since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain and attempt to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. A portion of the affidavit recounts the testimony of various witnesses at Rezko’s trial earlier this year.
“I want to make money”. Hmm. I wonder how many alligators were in that swamp and whether any have slithered out? John Kass, writing for the Chicago Tribune thinks that Governor Blagojevich ought to stop bragging about his testicles and start warming up his tonsils.
This is the governor who once bragged that he had the “testicular virility” to make tough decisions. This is the governor who compared himself to John Wayne. Now he’s trembling, afraid and, I figure, ready to spill his guts to save himself and his wife, Patti.
As I write this, he’s being brought before a U.S. magistrate for a bond hearing, and they’ll sneak him out of the federal building through the tunnel so the TV people won’t get their perp-walk video, but that’s not the end of his troubles. The only real decision Gov. Dead Meat has to make is when he’ll start blubbering into a federal tape recorder and how much he’ll say. The guys behind the guys aren’t amused. To them, this Blagojevich isn’t funny anymore.
“The guys behind the guys”, eh. Now who might they be? Back in April, 2008, Natasha Korecki, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times wrote on her blog that Tony Rezko believed he would be protected by people who had the power to fire Patrick Fitzgerald. Elie Maloof, one of Rezko’s associates testified that Rezko had attempted to dissaude him from testifying on the basis that Fitzgerald would soon be history.
“The federal prosecutor will no longer be the same federal prosecutor,” Maloof just testified that Rezko told him. What did Rezko mean prosecutor Chris Niewoehner asked? “That Patrick Fitzgerald would be terminated and Dennis Hastert will name his replacement. The investigation will be over.” Maloof, who once helped run some of Rezko’s fast-food businesses, said Rezko told him of Fitzgerald’s replacement: “That they will order the prosecutor to stop the investigation.”
It could be that Rezko was bluffing Maloof about the existence of protection in high places. But with Rezko convicted and Blagojevich charged, has the circle closed? Or are there wheels within wheels?