Last August, things looked sunny for former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. He and his lawyers had just obtained a hung jury on 23 of 24 corruption charges. But Justice Department prosecutors, confident they had their man, continued to pursue the case - and this time with different results. Last Monday, June 27, a Chicago federal jury, after nine days of deliberation, found the man known as "Blago" guilty on 17 of 20 charges, nearly a dozen of them related to his attempts during the fall of 2008 to fill the pending Senate vacancy left by President-Elect Barack Obama in return for campaign cash.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., like his famous father, has become a Democratic Party kingmaker, both in Chicago and on Capitol Hill. He's also, according to the September 21 Chicago Sun-Times, the mastermind behind a scheme to raise $6 million in campaign contributions for then-Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for a U.S. Senate appointment. The allegation, made by a Chicago-area businessman-fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, contradicts Jackson's assertions that he hadn't tried to buy Barack Obama's pending vacant Senate seat in the weeks prior to Election Day 2008. The actual version of events may well determine whether federal prosecutors can secure multiple guilty verdicts against Blagojevich, convicted in August on only one of 24 corruption charges (lying to federal agents), with the other 23 resulting in a hung jury.
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.
If former Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich thought his problems were behind him, the worst lies ahead. Late in January the state legislature voted to impeach and expel him from office. But it's not just his job but also his freedom that may be lost, thanks to pending testimony from his former chief of staff, John Harris. Harris yesterday pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge. And whatever details he spills in court aren't likely to make the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) look much better than Blagojevich. Nor are they likely to enhance the reputation of President Barack Obama.