JUNE 10, 2008
On the heels of the multiple convictions of his top adviser and fundraiser, a governor who campaigned with promises of cleaning up his corrupt predecessor’s scandalous administration could very well be the next to get indicted.
Damaging evidence revealed during the corruption trial of the man who shaped his political career has bumped Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to the top of the federal hit list. Antoin Rezko, who poured $1.6 million into the governor’s campaign, was convicted of 16 counts of bribery, mail fraud and money laundering.
Basically, Rezko used his clout with Blagojevich to squeeze more than $7 million in bribes and kickbacks from firms seeking to do business with the state. The Democrat governor’s name was prominent during the two-month trail which drew national attention because Rezko is also a longtime friend, adviser and campaign donor of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
During closing arguments alone, Blagojevich’s name was mentioned 41 times. At the trial three convicted political insiders testified that the governor participated in private meetings about the purchase of state jobs and state business with campaign contributors. All testified that the governor made it clear that people who raised money for his campaign would profit from his influence.
Ironically, Blagojevich pledged to clean up the mess left by Illinois’s previous governor, Republican George Ryan, who was convicted in 2006 of using state funds to run his campaigns, handing out state contracts to lobbyist friends and killing an investigation of bribery in the drivers licensing division. He is serving a 6 ½-year prison sentence.
Perhaps his Democratic rival will soon join him in jail. At the very least, lawmakers in Springfield have already mentioned impeachment for Blagojevich, who became governor in 2007. Federal prosecutors have already launched an investigation into his hiring practices and campaign funds.
They should do the same to the Illinois senator running for president. Obama and the convicted felon have been close for two decades and Rezko has raised about a quarter of a million dollars for Obama’s various political campaigns. In fact, Rezko served on Obama’s campaign financing committee in 2004 and the friends were involved in a questionable real estate deal involving Obama’s South Side house.
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