To win a conviction in a criminal case requires establishing opportunity, means and motive. Recent testimony in the ongoing corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reveals more than a few clues as to the motive part. Blagojevich and his wife, Patti, as it turns out, had about $200,000 in outstanding consumer debt at the time of his December 2008 arrest. Anxiety, if not desperation, over how to pay the money back was likely a major explanation for the ex-governor's eagerness to peddle President-Elect Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. Worse, Mrs. Blagojevich's real estate firm during 2002-04 apparently received roughly $150,000 or more in suspect "consulting" and other fees from a company co-owned by Obama's original paymaster, now-jailed (and awaiting sentencing) real estate developer/political kingmaker Tony Rezko. The revelations reinforce the popular image of the couple as willing to do anything for money.
From a public relations standpoint, getting forced out of the Illinois governor's mansion a year and a half ago was a smart career move for Rod Blagojevich. He's been all over the TV since, doing stints on such shows as "Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Late Show with David Letterman." But publicity may not be enough to keep him or several of his former allies out of prison. His long-awaited trial on fraud and conspiracy charges related to his attempt to sell Barack Obama's pending Senate vacancy to the highest bidder began on June 8, the result of a five-year Justice Department probe into corruption in Chicago politics. Prosecutors wrapped up their case just before 5 P.M. Tuesday. Evidence introduced thus far confirms widespread suspicions that former Gov. Blagojevich and his benefactors were part of a larger Chicago-Obama White House conduit.