Blagojevich, chief of staff arrested and taken into custody
Tuesday, Dec. 09 2008
CHICAGO â€” Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of
conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S.
senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
The FBI says he is on wiretaps conspiring to sell or trade Obama's vacant seat
According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with
illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of
the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state
assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board
who had been critical of him fired.
A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was
intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell
or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife,
The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for
himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor
It said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate
boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees.
He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a
post in the president's cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the
"I want to make money," the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of
corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."
"They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United
States senator," Fitzgerald said."
Among those being considered for the post include U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and
Jesse Jackson Jr.
Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt
to squeeze out campaign contributions.
His chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested.
Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal
investigation involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing
kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors
have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic
hiring fraud" under Blagojevich.
Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of
both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of
fraud and other charges. Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly,
is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal
According to Tuesday's complaint, Blagojevich schemed with Rezko,
millionaire-fundraiser turned federal witness Stuart Levine and others to get
financial benefits for himself and his campaign committee.
Federal prosecutors said Blagojevich and the chairman of his campaign committee
have been speeding up corrupt fundraising activities in the last month to get
as much money as possible before the end of the year when a new law would
curtail his ability to raise contributions from companies with state contracts
worth more than $50,000.
According to the affidavit, agents learned Blagojevich was seeking $2.5 million
in campaign contributions by the end of the year, with a large part allegedly
to come from companies and individuals who have gotten state contracts or
Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising
to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.
Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted
on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the
sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of
people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.
FBI spokesman Frank Bochte said federal agents arrested the governor and Harris
simultaneously at their homes at 6:15 a.m. and took them to the Chicago FBI
Bochte said he did not know if either man was handcuffed or if the governor's
family was their North Side home at the time of his arrest. He did say
Blagojevich and Harris both were given time to get dressed before being taken
to the headquarters.
He also did not have any details about Blagojevich's arrest, only that he was
cooperative with federal agents.
"It was a very calm setting," he said.
The governor was to appear later Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan
to answer the charges. The time was not immediately set.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna called on Blagojevich to resign
office immediately -- or lawmakers should impeach him.
â€œFurthermore, Governor Blagojevich should not, under this cloud of extremely
serious allegations, appoint a United States Senator," McKenna said in a
prepared statement. "While there is a presumption of innocence, in these
troubling economic times, the peopleâ€™s work should be placed ahead of Governor
Blagojevichâ€™s legal troubles."
Seriously.. You guys over the river sure know how to pick 'em.