Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Illinois governor accused in deal to name Obama successor

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested today on charges he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder in what a federal prosecutor called a "corruption crime spree."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told a news conference prosecutors make "no allegations" Obama was aware of any alleged scheming.

Obama said today he is saddened by allegations that Blagojevich tried to trade favors for the Senate seat and said he had no contact with the governor or his office on the matter.

Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

"We were in the middle of a corruption crime spree and we wanted to stop it," Fitzgerald said today, calling the corruption charges against Blagojevich "a truly new low."

Federal investigators bugged the governor's campaign offices and placed a tap on his home phone and Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said even seasoned investigators were "stunned" by what they heard on the tapes.

More here.

My my my. And people call Louisiana corrupt.

Fitzgerald, who investigated the White House Valerie Plame scandal, is a hard-nosed straight arrow who doesn't fuck around. Like fellow corrupt Democrat William Jefferson, Blagojevich deserves his day in court, and has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, but the smoking-gun wiretaps, along with Fitzgerald's proven sense of integrity, make Illinois' Democratic "anti-corruption" governor appear to be guilty as sin. I mean, I think he's guilty. With such a hardcore cloud hanging over him, Blagojevich should resign. Right now. Or the state legislature should throw him out of office. Whatever's faster.

Two observations.

First, Republicans are probably going to treat this the same way they treated Whitewater during the Clinton administration. Bill and Hillary, after seemingly endless investigations, were never accused of any wrongdoing, and even lost money in the failed real estate venture, to boot. According to Fitzgerald, Obama has even less to do with this Blagojevich bullshit than the Clintons had to do with any Whitewater chicanery--that is, the President Elect has nothing to do with this scandal at all. But if I know Republicans well, and at this point in my life I certainly do, Obama's innocence will not stop a hysterical, politically motivated, cash-rich witch hunt.

We'll see how that works out.

Second, and more importantly, the long train of shocking Republican scandals over the last eight years, coupled with this new spurt of Democratic scandals lately, reveals what's already obvious to anybody who's been watching. The American political culture itself, rather than a few bad apples, is deeply corrupt. That is, the priorities, values, and norms embraced by our leaders, Democrat and Republican alike, most decidedly do not favor the people of the United States; rather, our leaders favor themselves, their friends, and the wealthy individuals and corporations who fund their campaigns - and sometimes line their pockets with cold hard cash. Most politicians do this legally, I assume, while only a relative few cross the line. But that doesn't matter. Ripping off the people is wrong whether it's by the rules or not.

Blagojevich needs to have the book thrown at him, but this parade of hyper-corruption will continue until this favor-the-rich-and-get-rich philosophy is eradicated from the ruling class permanently.