How could Global Integrity not blog on this one? Governor Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested on charges of corruption and bribery after an ongoing investigation uncovered examples of the governor selling political favors in exchange for campaign contributions to his fundraising organization, Friends of Blagojevich.
Much of the media attention has focused on the governor’s misuse of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat as leverage for personal financial gain. Blagojevich, who as governor is charged with the task of appointing the next senator from Illinois, is accused of selling the seat to the highest bidder. (Obama has not posted anything specifically addressing this issue on his official blog, but the New York Times reports that he denies any connection to the scandal and had not discussed the matter with Blagojevich.) The official criminal complaint, as summarized on a New York Times blog, includes much more than this one incident: wiretaps expose conversations of illegal deals put together for government contracts, the withholding of funding on conditional requirements of donations to Friends of Blagojevich and a conspiracy to fire a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. The crassness of these demands have shocked much of the American public and yet again proven that corruption is not a concern solely confined to developing nations.
The charges were brought by U.S. attorney for Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, a native of Brooklyn, NY. During a press conference earlier this week, Fitzgerald invoked the mythical image of the morally upstanding “Honest Abe” Lincoln in saying Blagojevich’s “conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” The New York Post, taking pride in their native son, stated: “Now that’s a prosecutor custom-made for New York, where dubious political dealings would surely keep him busy. (New York’s last governor, recall, resigned amid a prostitution scandal.)” It seems that for the time being, Fitzgerald will have plenty of work in Chicago.
— Norah Mallaney