Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Governor Blagojevich makes it easy for his detractors to paint him as a delusional, narcissistic clown.
He makes it easy for all of us to join in our shared sense of “We’re Okay and He’s a Piggy.”
What actual evidence caused U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to seek the Governor’s arrest? What evidence is fueling the feeding frenzy amongst politicians, the media and the public?
The Criminal Complaint
According to the Criminal Complaint (Docket # 1:08-CR-01010), Governor Rod Blagoyevich’s malfeasance began around 2002 and the US Attorney started gathering evidence against him in 2003.
By the time the Governor ran for re-election in 2006, the investigation was already three years old.
Interestingly, wiretapping wasn’t initiated until the investigation was more than five years advanced. (October 22, 2008).
And what do we have to show for all those billable hours? The Complaint alleges that Governor Blagojevich conspired to defraud, conspired to obtain money and property by fraud and corruptly solicited and demanded… (See “Notes & Citations” below.)
The Complaint does not allege that any of the Governor’s hairbrained, adolescent-boy-in-a-treehouse schemes bore fruit. Although one informant says he donated money to Blagojevich’s political campaign in exchange for a “lucrative post,” I found no allegation in the Complaint that such a post (or lucrative contract) was awarded.
Stuart Levine is a witness central to the Government’s case against Blagojevich. In exchange for his testimony, the Government has agreed to drop some indictiments against Levine and recommend that he serve only 67 months in prison. (Unrelated to anything involving the Governor, Levine admitted in his plea agreement to …crimes over the past approximately 20 years... [and] further admitted to using illegal narcotic drugs …30 years…cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy and ketamine.”
Much of the information in the Government’s Complaint was provided by Tony Rezko. The Complaint implies Rezko was a confidante and agent of the Governor.
Unfortunately for the Government, “Earlier this year  Mr. Rezko wrote a letter to the judge in his own criminal case … in which he complained that federal prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “are pressuring me to tell them the ‘wrong’ things I supposedly know about Governor Blagojevich and Senator Obama. Mr. Rezko added that he had never been involved in wrongdoing with either man.”
Rezko changed his tune in December 2008. The Government’s affidavit against Blagojevich states, “Rezko has proffered [information] … in hopes of receiving a recommendation from the Government for a reduced sentence. On Thursday, the federal judge in Mr. Rezko’s case abruptly suspended his sentencing proceedings.” (Wall Street Journal)
Admittedly, the Governor is caught on tape musing about appointments to Obama’s cabinet. He also admits on tape that it was “unlikely that the President-elect would name him….”
The Governnor speculates about his wife being named to paid-corporate boards.
He wonders how best to be named to a not-for-profit.
He says, “…if…they’re not going to offer anything of any value [for Obama’s Senate seat] then I might just take [it]….[I] will make a decision…’in good faith…but it is not coming for free…It’s got to be good stuff for the people of Illinois and good for me.'”
He denies his own “involvement in anything illegal, including involvement in illegal activity with Rezko…”
Moreover, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and representatives of the Obama team have stated unequivocally that they had no pay-to-play, quid pro quo, conversations with Blagojevich or any of his agents.
And in mid-December 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the Governor’s fitness to hold office.
We are now in a holding pattern. US Attorney Fitzgerald asked for and received a 90 day extension in which to gather himself for an indictment.
If not in a Complaint that’s been five years in the making, then where’s the evidence that Governor Blagojevich’s discussions rose above the “pay-to-play” schemes commonly attributed to Halliburton, The Carlyle Group, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, General Electric, the insurance industry, oil companies establishing federal energy policy, Fannie and Freddie, Congress and professional sports teams bartering for public funds to build their new stadiums?
I’m not saying Governor Blagojevich is innocent. How can we know? But I am asking why we’ve colluded in making him our lightning rod for government corruption when there are so many others in the federal government and financial markets with demonstrable blood on their hands?
Martha Stewart, anyone?
Notes & Citations
Court documents filed in USA v Blagojevich, et al . You’ll have to scroll 2/3 down the page.(Docket # 1:08-CR-01010):
Allegations and statutes: “Rod R. Blagojevich and John Harris, were charged by way of a criminal complaint on December 9, 2008, with: (a) conspiring to defraud the citizens of Illinois of their right to his honest services, as well as conspiring to obtain money and property by fraud, in violation of the mail and wire fraud statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1346 & 1349; and (b) corruptly soliciting and demanding the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members who had been critical of Blagojevich, in exchange for the awarding of millions of dollars in financial assistance from the State of Illinois, 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B) and 2.