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  1. #1
    ODN's Crotchety Old Man

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    Mar 2004
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    Illinois governor in federal custody on corruption charges


    (CNN) -- Hours after federal investigators announced they had arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff on corruption charges, U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declared Tuesday a "sad day for government."

    Rod Blagojevich is currently serving his second term as governor of Illinois.

    "Gov. Blagojevich has taken us to a new low," he said. "This conduct would make [Abraham] Lincoln roll over in his grave."

    Fitzgerald said the government had bugged the governor's campaign office and placed a tap on his home phone.

    FBI agents arrested Blagojevich on Tuesday on federal charges in part related to the selection of President-elect Barack Obama's successor, the U.S. attorney's office said.

    Federal officers took Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris -- also arrested on corruption charges -- into custody at around 6:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) without incident, FBI spokesman Ross Rice told CNN.

    Each was charged with a count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a count of solicitation of bribery, authorities said.

    The government says the two were "conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits" for the Illinois governor by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a U.S. senator to replace Obama.

    The Obama transition team is aware that Blagojevich is in federal custody, but has no comment, according to a senior Democratic source.

    The government also accuses Blagojevich and Harris of threatening to withhold state assistance to the Tribune Company -- the company that owns the Chicago Tribune -- in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field baseball stadium. The company also owns the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field.

    In exchange for assistance, the governor and his chief of staff wanted the newspaper to fire Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were sharply critical of the governor, the government said.

    It alleged the two also sought to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions.Blagojevich and Harris will appear later Tuesday in court, the attorney's office said.

    Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said Tuesday that it's "a sad day."

    The governor's arrest calls into question whether he retains the power to name someone to replace Obama in the Senate, said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst.

    "One of the many interesting legal questions that is going to come out of this is, if Blagojevich is arrested, and not able to perform his duties in a normal way -- is he allowed to name Obama's successor? I don't know the answer to that," Toobin said.

    The investigation into Blagojevich and Harris has been going on for several years, Rice said. Tuesday's arrests are "pretty much a culmination of that case," he said. iReport.com: What do you think of Blagojevich's corruption charges?

    In a 76-page affidavit, federal authorities say wiretaps caught Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

    At times, he discussed obtaining a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit organization or an organization affiliated with labor unions, as well as placing his wife on paid corporate boards where she might make as much as $150,000 a year, the government said.

    During one recorded conversation, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and said he was "financially" hurting, the affidavit said.

    "I want to make money," Blagojevich said, according to the affidavit.

    The governor also often weighed the option of appointing himself to the Senate seat, saying he was "stuck" at governor and might have access to more resources as a senator than as a governor, the affidavit says. A Senate seat could also help him remake his image ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it," he said in one conversation.

    The intercepted phone calls also caught the the governor and Harris discussing the possibility of the Tribune Company's obtaining assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority in efforts to sell the Cubs and the financing or sale of Wrigley Field, the government said.

    Blagojevich allegedly directed Harris to tell Tribune officials that state assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board were fired. The Illinois governor saw them as "driving discussion of his possible impeachment," the affidavit said.

    "Our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get 'em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support," the governor allegedly said in one phone call.

    Federal authorities also allege the governor and Harris schemed with others -- including convicted real estate developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko -- to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and others, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich.

    Reports from the Chicago Tribune last week said federal authorities were investigating the governor and were secretly taping his conversations -- with the help of his former congressional chief of staff, John Wyem.

    "I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me," Blagojevich told WLS-TV in Chicago on Monday, as he responded to the reports of wiretapping. "I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."

    He added, "By the way, I should say if anyone wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly."

    Blagojevich, who turns 52 on Wednesday, is in his second four-year term as Illinois governor. His term ends January 2011.

    Before that, he served as a U.S. Congressman for Illinois' 5th district from 1997 until 2003, according to his online biography.

    He and his wife have two daughters.

    Blagojevich announced last month that he was forming a panel to review candidates to replace Obama's Senate seat.

    Several Illinois Democrats -- including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, a former congressional candidate who now serves in Blagojevich's administration -- have been mentioned as possible Senate replacements for Obama.

    On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reacted to the news, saying "I talked to the governor a few days ago, of course, about the Senate appointment and of course I'm very disappointed."

    "Any time a high-ranking official, governor of a state like Illinois -- especially -- it reflects bad on government generally. I'm terribly disappointed and concerned," he added.

    When asked what Blagojevich's arrest means for the appointment of Obama's Senate successor, Reid said he wasn't sure.

    "I don't know. Maybe it means the lieutenant governor does it. I don't know."

    The state's last governor, George Ryan, was convicted in April 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges.

    Ryan reported to a federal prison in Wisconsin in November 2007 to serve a 6-year sentence. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States said it would not hear an appeal from Ryan.

    On December 1, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ilinois, asked President Bush to consider commuting Ryan's sentence, saying Ryan "has already paid a significant price" for his crimes.

    "George Ryan is 74 years old. He has lost his state pension benefits and a commutation will not restore them. He would emerge from prison facing economic uncertainty at this advanced stage of his life," Durbin wrote.

  2. #2
    Registered User

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    Apr 2006
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    Re: Illinois governor in federal custody on corruption charges


    I wonder how long he will serve in prison. Knowing Illinoise he will probably get re-elected when he gets out.



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