Illinois governor charged with shopping Senate appointment

The big political news in the US today is the arrest of Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on a charge (among others) that he tried to sell the appointment of Barack Obama’s replacement in the US Senate.

As governor, Blagojevich is entitled to appoint someone to serve out Obama’s term, which ends in 2010. As long as he remains governor, though (which I hope won’t be for long), I can’t imagine anyone other than a fellow slimeball accepting the post.

Unfortunately for Blagojevich, he was wiretapped by the feds, who included some damning quotes in their criminal complaint (pdf).

According to the indictment, while talking on the telephone about the Senate seat replacement with his chief of staff and an adviser, Mr. Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and their financial struggles. “I want to make money,” he said, according to prosecutors. He then added, they allege, that he wanted to make $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

Mr. Blagojevich even contemplated stepping into the Senate himself, prosecutors said.

“I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain,” Mr. Blagojevich said in a recorded conversation with an adviser, according to the affidavit.

According to the affidavit from prosecutors, Mr. Blagojevich told an adviser last week that he might “get some (money) upfront, maybe” from one of the candidates hoping to replace Mr. Obama. That person was identified only as “Candidate 5.”

Marc Ambinder writes:

Having read through the charging document twice, there’s no evidence whatsoever that anyone associated with the Obama presidential transition did anything improper. Obama himself is barely mentioned.

In fact, according to the charging document, Blagojevich expressed frustration with Obama.

Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”
ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherfucker [the President-elect] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.”

“Senate Candidate 1” is apparently Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett, whom he has appointed to a position in his administration.

While there is nothing implicating Obama or his staff in Blagojevich’s alleged criminality, it’s clearly a distraction the president-elect could do without.

If Blagojevich is convicted and sent to prison, he will be following a well-trod path. In my living memory, three former Illinois governors have done prison time– most recently his immediate predecessor, Republican George Ryan, who, as his Wikipedia entry puts it, is currently “housed at the satellite prison camp adjacent to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Terre Haute, Indiana.”

Update: Looks like the Illinois legislature will schedule a special election for Obama’s replacement in the Senate rather than allow Blagojevich to make the selection.