JUNE 28, 2011
Rod Blagojevich will join an all-star lineup of disgraced Illinois politicians when he becomes the state’s fourth governor to serve time for corruption in the last three decades.After deliberating for 10 days a federal jury convicted Blagojevich of 17 corruption charges for, among other things, trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat. Prosecutors retried the impeached governor after a jury deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts last summer.Judicial Watch has for years investigated Blagojevich’s corrupt activities and JW covered both trials in Chicago. In 2007 JW sued to obtain public records relating to Blagojevich’s federal investigation and in 2008 JW Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes testified before the Illinois House Special Investigative Committee considering Blagojevich’s impeachment.In 2009 JW obtained public records that prove Obama and Blagojevich had repeated contact after Obama became president even though the White House has vehemently denied it. The subject came up repeatedly at both trials because secret FBI wiretaps capture Blagojevich negotiating a bribe in exchange for appointing Obama’s pal to the senate.Obama’s top aide (Rahm Emanuel, who recently became Chicago mayor) pushed Blagojevich to appoint the president’s good friend, Valerie Jarrett, to the Illinois Senate seat, according to trial testimony from Blagojevich’s one-time chief-of-staff. A longtime confidante of Obama’s, Jarrett eventually followed him to the White House and serves as a key advisor.Blagojevich, a two-term governor who won every public office he ever ran for, was also convicted of trying to shake down the head of a children’s hospital and an Illinois racetrack executive. Technically, he could be sentenced to hundreds of years in prison but will likely go away for about a decade, according to legal experts quoted in local press reports.It will make him the fourth Illinois governor to go to jail for felonies since the 1970s. The most recent, Republican George Ryan, is currently serving 6 ½ years for racketeering and fraud. In 1987 Democrat Dan Walker was convicted of bank fraud and in 1973 Democrat Otto Kerner was convicted of more than a dozen counts of bribery, conspiracy and perjury.Illinois has a strong public corruption legacy that has seen at least 79 elected officialsconvicted for wrongdoing in the last few decades. Among them are more than a dozen prominent state legislators, city officials, county judges and even a popular mayor.The problem is so pervasive that a few years ago the state’s largest newspaper published an editorial declaring a campaign against the Illinois “culture of political sleaze.” The piece lists several examples of public corruption and accuses all Illinoisans of not asking enough integrity from public officials, laws and the people paid to enforce them.
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