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Illinois Governor Arrested for Attempting to Sell Senate Seat

It's been a bad year for governors. Back in March, then-New York governor Eliot Spitzer resigned following revelations that he'd engaged in regular dalliances with a high-priced call girl and member of a prostitution ring under federal investigation. Now, the New York Times is reporting on yesterday's arrest of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes for allegedly attempting to sell president-elect Obama's former Senate seat. According to an affidavit filed in the case:

In several possible situations, the affidavit says, Mr. Blagojevich seemed to refer to plans already under way to make money or win a job (for him or his wife, Patti) in exchange for a particular Senate selection, raising the specter that there might be others, including some of the Senate candidates, who were participating or at least considering participating in such deals. Even before Mr. Obama was elected president, Mr. Blagojevich was recorded telling an adviser on Oct. 31 that he was giving greater consideration to one candidate (described only as Senate Candidate 5) after an approach by “an associate” of that candidate who offered to raise $500,000 for Mr. Blagojevich, while another emissary of the Senate hopeful offered to raise $1 million. “We were approached ‘pay to play." Mr. Blagojevich said on a recording.

Blagojevich denies any wrongdoing.

As of this morning, bloggers had this to say about this bizarre news:

White Collar Crime Profs issue-spots the story, wondering whether Blagojevich can receive a fair trial after all of this front-page publicity, not to mention the comments by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who, among other things, stated that "the conduct would make Lincoln turn over in his grave." In addition, the mail and wire fraud statutes under which Blagojevich was charged have "enormous breadth" and may test the limits of prosecutorial power because it may ensnare perfectly legal conduct.

Volokh Conspiracy, here and here, offers some conspiracy thinking of its own, wondering whether it's true, as Obama claims, that he lacked any knowledge of Blagojevich's wrongful acts.

Finally, the Carnegie Legal Reporting Program's LawBeat blog questions the judgment of U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald for his extensive and highly prejudicial quotes. Choice tidbits include:

Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low. Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree ... Blagojevich and others were working feverishly to get as much money from contractors, shaking them down, pay to play, before the end of the year ... At the end of the day, the conduct we have before us is appalling ... His press-conference sidekick, the FBI's Rob Grant, was almost as good: If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor ... the FBI agents that participated in this wiretap investigation, were thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard, and I think even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked ...

Blagojevich's conduct, if proven, is truly egregious. But Fitzgerald's comments cross the line of propriety, and in that, he holds something in common with the accused governor: both have abused the power of their respective public office. Only Fitzgerald's abuse is proven, Blagojevich's has not been yet.

If you've commented on this story or have any insights, please post links or comments below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 10, 2008 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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