Is Rod Blagojevich Really That Unique?
He was disbarred this week. I can think of a thousand others who should be too, and for more reason.
A US senate seat “is a valuable fucking thing- you don’t just give it away for nothing.” Famous last words, caught on FBI wiretap, from the former IL governor before he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
I remember thinking “How convenient, right after he sided with workers in their standoff against Bank of America.” (5 Chicago Governor Suspends Business with Bank of America). That was December 8, 2008, and he was arrested December 9 on 17 public corruption convictions.
The former governor was also recorded saying he wanted President-elect Barack Obama to “put something together… something big” in exchange for the appointment, but it’s not clear what the something is. It could be money, or funding for some program for his state. That’s nothing out of the ordinary for this country that allows huge corporate lobbyists to write the legislation that we as citizens are required to live by. In the absence of campaign finance and lobbying reform, political deal-making is just not uncommon or even blatantly illegal.
The FBI affidavit states that Blagojevich sought an appointment for Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration in exchange for this Senate seat. Well, considering Betsy Devos, the current Education Secretary, possesses only one qualification and that is donor to the Trump campaign, I guess that’s another example of what we call everyday political deal-making. Again, it’s not ideal, because appointments should be made based on public good rather than who you know, but that kind of thing is also not considered illegal across the board.
I’ll concede that accepting millions of dollars into an organization that he would control might be enough the warrant his impeachment and removal, which did happen. But obtaining donations in exchange for racetrack legislation doesn’t seem much different than the president getting campaign contributions from oil companies while promising to build a pipeline and “increasing pediatric reimbursement rates from the state of Illinois to a children’s hospital” is on about the same plane as the federal government siphoning Medicare premiums to insurance companies in the form of Part C, Medicare Advantage Plans.
The so-called “shakedown” of the children’s hospital is a good sound bite, especially with the word “children”. That was related to a corruption charge relating to a promise to secure $8 million in funding in exchange for a $50,000 campaign contribution from the CEO. I’m guessing that’s not the first or last time a politician has done something similar, considering that leading up to the 2012 election, $35 million was given to political campaigns by the hospital and nursing home industry.
Blagojevich talks on tape, according to the affidavit, about using his gubernatorial relationships to make money after he leaves office as well as getting his wife on some corporate boards in exchange for the senate seat. The latter seems worthy of charge while the former is no different than the unfortunately legal “congressman turned lobbyist” that we see all the time.
I think there are a few factors that go into the astounding almost unanimous agreement of throwing this man in prison. For one thing, Illinois has the reputation for corruption. Even people who have no knowledge of specifics think of Illinois as one of the most corrupt states with Chicago being the epicenter.
This whole thing also smacks, to me, of a double standard between Democratic and Republican politicians. It’s almost as if, since corruption has always been part and parcel for a larger percentage of Republicans, more scrutiny is put on Democrats, and it takes less to call them corrupt.
Illinois is one of 36 states in which governors appoint an interim senator to serve until the next scheduled election, and the governor is allowed only to choose between three people suggested by the party of the senator who left. That shows that there’s no way Blagojevich could have appointed his nephew even if he was brazen enough to try. But the conversation was inflammatory enough to get the public riled up when the clip was released, which I suspect was the intention.
There’s no denying that there was some questionable and illegal intent in those conversations. Still, I’m not convinced this particular politician warranted an FBI wiretap any more than a lot of others. Especially the current occupant of the Oval Office.