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:
— 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.
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.
The federal criminal complaint reports that Blagojevich corruptly solicited and demanded “the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical” of him.
,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.
,Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who is reportedly under consideration for the open Senate seat, said she was “absolutely shocked” to hear the news. She said the prosecutor should “have a really good reason” for going into Blagojevich’s house and taking him into custody in front of his family. Watch it:
,According to the Illinois constitution, the Lt. Governor is first in line to take over as Governor, “[i]f the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability.” Should Blagojevich be subject to any of these conditions in the near future, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would assume power and be responsible for appointing Obama’s successor.
,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.”
,Jonathan Stein at Mother Jones looks at the ethical track records of recent Illinois governors.
,Illinois Rep. Tim Hare (D) says the allegations are serious enough that Blagojevich should resign if they are true:
Today is a sad day for the state of Illinois. It is important that we let the justice system run its course and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But if these allegations are even remotely true, they would represent a shameful breach of the public trust and be cause for the Governor’s immediate resignation.
,Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has called for a special election: “The General Assembly should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this Governor could produce a credible replacement,” he said.