Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, was arrested on corruption charges, including an allegation that he was trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, called his sole authority to name Mr. Obama’s successor “golden,” and he sought to parlay it into a job as an ambassador or secretary of Health and Human Services, or a high-paying position at a nonprofit or an organization connected to labor unions, prosecutors said. He also suggested, they said, that in exchange for the Senate appointment, his wife could be placed on corporate boards where she might earn as much as $150,000 a year, and he tried to gain promises of money for his campaign fund.
If Mr. Blagojevich could not secure a deal to his liking, prosecutors said, he was willing to appoint himself.
“If I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself,” the governor said in recorded conversation, prosecutors said.
A 76-page affidavit from the United States Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois says Mr. Blagojevich (pronounced bluh-GOY-uh-vich) was heard on wiretaps over the last month planning to “sell or trade Illinois’ United States Senate seat vacated by Pres-elect Barack Obama for financial and personal benefits for himself and his wife.”
The charges are part of a five-year investigation into public corruption and allegations of “pay to play” deals in the clubby world of Illinois politics. Federal authorities said Mr. Blagojevich’s chief of staff, John Harris, was also indicted on Tuesday. Both men are expected to appear in federal court for the first time later Tuesday.
At a news conference, Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, said that Mr. Blagojevich had gone on a “political corruption crime spree,” and that his actions had “taken us to a truly new low.”
“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.
“The complaint makes no allegations about the President-elect whatsoever,” he added.
An official at the governor’s office had no immediate comment on Tuesday. A telephone message left at Mr. Obama’s transition office was not returned.
Mr. Blagojevich, 51, now serving his second term portrayed himself as a reformer after the one-term of the former governor, George Ryan, who was convicted of racketeering and fraud in 2006.
For more than a year, members of Mr. Blagojevich’s administration have been under investigation. But few here have imagined that the decision on replacing Mr. Obama might have resulted in criminal charges.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there speculation awhile back that Blagojevich was going to take over Obama’s Senate seat himself?
Tagged: Rod Blagojevich