Federal authorities took Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his chief of staff John Harris into custody this morning on federal corruption charges. Before the arrest, the Chicago Tribune had reported that a “three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama.” According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office:
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. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:Fitzgerald, who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby, said in a statement that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.” “I want to make money,” the affidavit quotes Blagojevich as saying in one conversation. The full 76-page two-count criminal complaint can be found here. FireDogLake has more.
– a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an
organization affiliated with labor unions;
– placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
– promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
– a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
What is ironic is that Blagojevich told reporters yesterday, "I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."
The federal criminal complaint reports that Governor Blagojevich corruptly solicited and demanded "the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical" of him.
How does this affect Barack Obama?
Good Question, there will be those conservative wing-nuts who will try to tie Obama to Blagojevich. However news coming out is that there was a pretty big rift between the Obama campaign and Blagojevich. In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that President-elect Obama wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.” The complaint does not mention her name, but the description makes clear that Blagojevich is referring to Valerie Jarrett.
You can download a copy of the indictment HERE.