Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009.
Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: "We were approached ‘pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator."Marc Ambinder thinks #5 is Jesse Jackson Jr. Here's a table:
The charges include historical allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with others - including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others - since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain and attempt to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. A portion of the affidavit recounts the testimony of various witnesses at Rezko's trial earlier this year.One payoff Blago considered was a job at a union:
Two days later, in a three-way call with Harris and Advisor B, a consultant in Washington, Blagojevich and the others allegedly discussed the prospect of a three-way deal for the Senate appointment involving an organization called "Change to Win," which is affiliated with various unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)... On November 10, Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, Governor General Counsel, Advisor B and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed, among other things, a deal involving the SEIU. Harris said they could work out a deal with the union and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Blagojevich's appointment of Senate Candidate 1, while Blagojevich would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future. Also during that call, Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that the President-elect would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him.Change to Win denies any contact (link); note that that group is linked into the George Soros/Center for American Progress network.
On November 6, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Spokesman. ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Spokesman to leak to a particular columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, that Senate Candidate 2 is in the running for the vacant Senate seat. According to ROD BLAGOJEVICH, by doing this, he wanted "to send a message to the [President-elect's] people," but did not want it known that the message was from ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Thereafter, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Spokesman discussed specific language that should be used in the Sun Times column and arguments as to why Senate Candidate 2 made sense for the vacant Senate seat. A review of this particular Sun Times column on November 7, 2008, indicates references to the specific language and arguments regarding Senate Candidate 2 as a potential candidate for the Senate seat, as discussed by ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Spokesman.A search didn't turn up who that could be; if anyone can find that please leave a comment. Ambinder thinks it's Madigan, and the columnist is Michael Sneed (marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/12/the_blago_indictment_fun_with.php)
Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A again discussed the possibility of a 501(c)(4) organization, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH again noted that "[Senate Candidate 6]" could "do it." ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed who might be close to Senate Candidate 6 to talk with him about the issue, because ROD BLAGOJEVICH did not "want to be the one to ask something like that." Advisor A agreed to find out who is close to Senate Candidate 6.And, it looks like the Barack Obama circle knew that Blago wanted something in exchange for appointing Jarrett:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with SEIU Official, who was in Washington, D.C. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that approximately a week before this call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH met with SEIU Official to discuss the vacant Senate seat, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH understood that SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1's interest in the Senate seat. During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat. SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that "one thing I'd be interested in" is a 501(c)(4) organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) idea to SEIU Official and said that the 501(c)(4)could help "our new Senator [Senate Candidate 1]." SEIU Official agreed to "put that flag up and see where it goes."There's no proof offered that the "SEIU official" then spoke with Obama's advisor Valerie Jarrett, but it is likely.
But on November 23, 2008, his senior adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Chicago and said something quite different.UPDATE 2: Trouble in paradise! Now, an unnamed Obama aide says about the foregoing Axelrod statement: "What the president-elect said today is correct, David Axelrod misspoke." That would seem to be moving beyond simply distancing himself from Blago and moving into "we're scared" mode.
While insisting that the President-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a "kingmaker," Axelrod said, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."
There are no allegations that President-elect Obama or anyone close to him had anything to do with any of the crimes Gov. Blagojevich is accused of having committed.
In fact, there are indications that Mr. Obama and his team refused to go along with the "pay to play" way Blagojevich is accused of operating, offering only "gratitude" if the governor appointed his friend Valerie Jarrett to take his U.S. Senate seat, much to the governor's chagrin.
But there remain questions about how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat -- with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Did that person report the governor to the authorities?
And, it should be pointed out, Mr. Obama has a relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, having not only endorsed Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006, but having served as a top adviser to the Illinois governor in his first 2002 run for the state house.
That 2002 endorsement came at the same time that Axelrod had such serious concerns about whether Blagojevich was ready for governing he refused to work for his one-time client.
KHQA TV wishes to offer clarification regarding a story that appeared last month on our website ConnectTristates.com. The story, which discussed the appointment of a replacement for President Elect Obama’in the U.S. Senate, became the subject of much discussion on talk radio and on blog sites Wednesday.UPDATE 5: Some initial reports said the SEIU official was Andy Stern, but the New York Times says:
The story housed in our website archive was on the morning of November 5, 2008. It suggested that a meeting was scheduled later that day between President Elect Obama and Illinois Governor Blagojevich. KHQA has no knowledge that any meeting ever took place. Governor Blagojevich did appear at a news conference in Chicago on that date.
Several union officials in Chicago and Washington said that the service employees official approached by Mr. Harris was Tom Balanoff, the president of the union’s giant janitors’ local in Chicago and head of the union’s Illinois state council. Mr. Balanoff, one of the union officials closest to Mr. Obama, is widely seen as an aggressive, successful labor leader, who has helped unionize thousands of janitors not just in the Chicago area but also in Texas.
Politics · Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:57 · Importance: 21