Citizens across Illinois are clamoring for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to resign or be impeached as a result of federal charges he and his chief of staff engaged in a “corruption crime spree” including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by President-elect Barack Obama. Under Illinois law, Blagojevich has sole power to name Obama’s replacement.
The charges allege far more, including a $50,000 extortion demand against a Chicago hospital director; a tollway contract awarded in exchange for a $100,000 campaign contribution; and demands that the Chicago Tribune fire editorial board members in exchange for state help in selling Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, owned by the Tribune’s parent corporation.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in a press statement the morning of the December 9 arrests.
“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,” Fitzgerald said.
Wiretaps of Blagojevich’s phone calls record him scheming to exchange the Senate appointment for:
* a do-nothing job at a nonprofit foundation or labor union that would have paid him several hundred thousand dollars a year;
* corporate board appointments for his wife that would have paid as much as $150,000 a year;
* $500,000 to $1 million in campaign contributions, including “tangible, up front” cash; and
* a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
Obama was not implicated in the allegations. According to the charges, “Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but ‘they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F… them.'”
‘Culture of Corruption’
“We have a serious problem with a culture of corruption in this state,” said state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), a Blagojevich nemesis who last year tried unsuccessfully to pass recall legislation aimed at having him removed from office. Franks is among a chorus of lawmakers now calling for the governor’s resignation or impeachment.
“If [Illinois] isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it is certainly one hell of a competitor,” said FBI Special Agent Robert Grant, who added investigators were “thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard. Even our most cynical agents were shocked.”
Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Budget & Tax News.