DECEMBER 10, 2008
Barack Obama denies having contact with the indicted Illinois governor who tried to sell his old Senate seat yet the president elect’s top advisor revealed last month that the men, longtime political pals, had in fact spoken about a replacement.
When a massive federal indictment charging Rod Blagojevich with multiple corruption counts was made public yesterday, Camp Obama suddenly diagnosed the second-term Democrat governor with political plague. The nation’s soon-to-be commander-in-chief claimed to barely know his close political ally.
After all, who wants to be connected to a notoriously crooked politician who just got arrested and charged with selling the influence of his office, lucrative state jobs and contracts to the highest bidders?
Prosecutors say Blagojevich also tried getting a cabinet-level position in Obama’s new administration in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate to replace him in the Senate.
Blagojevich and Obama go back years and Obama, not only endorsed both of Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaigns, he served as a top advisor in the first one in 2002. A couple of years later Blagojevich enthusiastically endorsed Obama for the U.S. Senate and Obama returned the favor by ardently supporting Blagojevich’s 2006 reelection bid, even though federal prosecutors were building a strong case against the Blagojevich administration’s illegal hiring practices.
Obama and Blagojevich also shared a major campaign donor, a shady Syrian businessman (Antoin Rezko) recently convicted of 16 counts of bribery, mail fraud and money laundering. Rezko raised about a quarter of a million dollars for Obama’s various political campaigns and poured $1.6 million into Blagojevich’s coffers.
It’s not surprising then, that the longtime political allies discussed a crucial legislative issue that affected them both. Their conversations about filling the newly vacant Senate seat was actually revealed by Obama’s senior advisor, David Axelrod, in a television news show broadcast in late November.
A huge indictment later, Axelrod issued a statement saying that he was mistaken when he told an interviewer last month that his boss spoke directly to Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. “They did not then or at any time discuss the subject,” Axelrod sternly states in his written statement.
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