Ill. governor charged in federal probe

December 9, 2008 6:54:06 PM PST
Even by Chicago standards -- the corruption is staggering. That's how prosecutors are describing the case against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

He was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with trying to sell the senate seat vacated by President-Elect Barack Obama.

As governor of Illinois, Blagojevich has the power to name Barack Obama's replacement to the U.S. senate. Prosecutors say he put that senate seat up for sale, but that is by no means the only accusation he's facing.

Federal prosecutors say they've caught Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich in the middle of a political corruption crime spree.

"The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Through wire taps and bugs in Blagojevich's campaign office and home, they were able to record the governor threatening to pull funding for a children's hospital if the hospital's CEO failed to make a $50,000 campaign contribution.

And when the Tribune Company wanted to sell Wrigley Field, federal agents said they taped the governor saying the deal would depend on the Tribune firing editors who were unfriendly to the governor.

"In the governor's words, 'fire all those bleeping people get them the bleep out of there and get us some editorial support,'" said Fitzgerald.

But the most serious charge -- that the governor intended to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

"The governor's own words describing the senate seat, 'it's a bleeping valuable thing -- thing you just don't give it away for nothing,'" said Fitzgerald.

The U.S. Attorney described the corruption as a new low. That's saying something considering that Blagojevich's predecessor Republican governor George Ryan is currently serving a six-year prison sentence.

"This is a governor in a major state who is a Democrat, and already the conservative blogs are having a field day," said UC Berkeley political expert Henry Brady Ph.D.

Professor Brady calls it a black eye for the Democratic Party, but not necessary for the President-Elect.

"There's no indication he's directly involved in any way in fact there's a quotation from Blagojevich in which he says these guys aren't giving me anything but thanks but they're not giving me any jobs or anything I really want," said Brady Ph.D.

On Tuesday, Obama denied ever talking with Blagojevich about who the governor should appoint.

"I had no contact with the governor or his office, so I was not aware of what was happening," said President-elect Barack Obama.

But two weeks ago, Obama's Senior Advisor David Axelrod told FOX News there had been talks.

"I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced," said Axelrod.

On Tuesday afternoon an Obama transition aide told reporters Axelrod misspoke in that fox interview.

Tonight Blagojevich is still governor, and still has the power to appoint the senator from Illinois. But after Tuesday's arrest you've got to wonder who would accept that appointment.


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