Blagojevich arrest, Blagojevich taped conversations, Blagojevich pay-to-play
M. Spencer Green/AP
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Accused of Attempt to Sell Obama’s Senate Seat

December 09, 2008 01:31 PM
by Anne Szustek
Blagojevich, long dogged by corruption allegations, was detained at his Chicago home and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and bribery solicitation.
Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff, have been charged with bribery solicitation and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the district of Northern Illinois.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who has long been investigating possible "pay-to-play" corruption in the Blagojevich administration, said that in addition to other corruption allegations, the governor of Illinois was allegedly soliciting bribes of as much as $1 million in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The charges are detailed in a 76-page complaint.

"Gov. Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low," Fitzgerald said during the press conference. "The conduct would make Lincoln turn in his grave."

Prior to the governor's arrest, the Chicago Tribune had already said that with the reported cooperation of John Wyma, federal investigators had taped some of Blagojevich’s conversations. Wyma was Blagojevich’s chief of staff when the governor represented Illinois’ Fifth District in Congress.
The probe, which Blagojevich likened to “Nixon and Watergate," revealed that on Oct. 31, “We were approached to ‘pay to play’" by a representative of someone called only by Fitzgerald as "Senate Candidate 5." 

According to Chicago's ABC affiliate WLS, the governor said in the taped conversation, "You know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”

Blagojevich also allegedly desired, in exchange for a preferential Senate appointment, a cabinet post or a post as an ambassador, "tangible, up front" cash, six-figure salaried corporate board positions for his wife Patricia as well as a plum salaried position with a union-affiliated group or a non-profit for himself.

The governor also allegedly said in one of the taped conversations that he had concerns about the "financial security" of the family. “I want to make money,” he allegedly said.

With regard to candidates for positions who apparently refused to pay kickbacks, Blagojevich, according to Fitzgerald's statement, "They're not willing to give me anything but their appreciation. [Bleep] them."

Federal agents took Blagojevich into custody around 6 a.m. CST Tuesday at his house on Chicago’s Northwest Side. According to a source of WLS, the Illinois governor is being held at Chicago-area FBI headquarters on the city’s West Side.

The state’s lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, said during a phone interview with WLS, “I’ve heard the reports but I don’t know whether it’s true or not,” also saying that he was not notified “through any official channels” of Blagojevich’s detainment.

The governor maintained yesterday that his conversations were “always lawful.” Lt. Gov Quinn told WLS, “The Governor remains the Governor. … The presumption is you’re always innocent until proven guilty.”

Blagojevich and Harris are to appear in court later Tuesday. Other allegations against the governor include passage of a yet-unsigned $8 million bill for Children's Memorial Hospital in exchange for a $50,000 campaign contribution from a high-ranking hospital staff member, and assistance for the Tribune Company's sale of Wrigley Field in exchange for firing members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board who were critical of the governor, one of whom allegedly was listed by name.

Blagojevich allegedly told the Tribune Company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, "Fire those [bleeping] staff."

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