A corruption scandal in Illinois

Federal prosecutors charged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with political corruption of jaw-dropping scope.

Federal prosecutors this week charged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a “political corruption crime spree’’ of jaw-dropping scope, including a brazen attempt to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat. In a series of wiretapped conversations, prosecutors said, the second-term Democrat said he had “valuable” leverage over those who wanted the Senate job. “I’ve got this thing,” Blagojevich said, “and it’s f---ing golden, and I’m just not giving it up for f---ing nothing.” In another conversation about the Senate seat, he said, “I want to make money.” Blagojevich was arrested and released on $4,500 bail.

Prosecutors said Blagojevich solicited millions in political donations and bribes from people with state business, including executives from a hospital for children. He was also accused of pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial board members who had criticized him, telling the newspaper’s executives that he would withhold state help on the sale of Wrigley Field, which the Tribune Co. also owns.

Blagojevich proclaimed his innocence and brushed off bipartisan calls for his resignation, including from President-elect Obama. State legislators said they would quickly begin impeachment proceedings and strip him of the power to fill Obama’s seat.

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Blagojevich must resign, said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. “Immediately.” Even for a state with a long history of corruption, these charges—and Blagojevich’s own words—are astounding. And should Blagojevich still think he has any chance of filling that Senate seat, let’s be clear: Anyone he picks will be “irredeemably tainted.”

Obama himself has some explaining to do, said Michelle Malkin in National Review Online. Prosecutors did clear Obama of any complicity, but Obama’s political patron Tony Rezko is mentioned repeatedly in the Blagojevich indictment. “If it were the Republican Bush administration” tied to such a scandal, “the White House press corps would be frothing like a pack of Michael Vick’s pit bulls.”

Obama comes off well in the wiretapped recordings, said John Dickerson in Slate.com, with Blagojevich complaining that “the motherf---er’’ wouldn’t give him anything but “appreciation.” Still, Obama was typically “vague” about whether he or aides had spoken to Blagojevich about the Senate seat. There have been reports that Obama had been pushing Blagojevich to appoint his close friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett. “Suddenly in the middle of the process, Obama stopped wanting that. Why?”

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