Politics

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Charles Sykes/AP
Rod Blagojevich

Blagojevich, Brother, Allies Indicted on 19 Federal Charges

April 03, 2009 02:30 PM
by Anne Szustek
Former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, along with his brother Rob and four of the politico’s former confidants, were indicted on multiple federal counts of fraud on Thursday.

Blagojevich Indictment Family Affair

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Roughly two months after being ousted from his seat as governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich was indicted on 16 federal counts of racketeering, fraud and extortion. 

The federal counts levied on the disgraced (and oft-lampooned) Blagojevich include charges relating to the “play-to-play” scandal that emerged in connection with the alleged scheme to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama. But in this round of legal scrutiny, there are more charges suggesting a deeper web of corruption involving his closest allies. Also charged in the 19-count federal indictment were the former governor’s brother, Rob, and four members of his inner circle: Blagojevich’s friend and fundraiser Christopher Kelly; two former chiefs of staff, Alonzo “Lon” Monk and John Harris; and William Cellini, whom the Chicago Tribune calls an Illinois “Downstate Republican power broker.”

The charges alleged in the indictment go beyond the Senate seat scandal that made national headlines and late-night standup routines. They include an attempted shakedown in 2006 of then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel, now Obama’s chief of staff. Emanuel, who represented the same Chicago North Side district that Blagojevich had before becoming governor, was backing a $2 million grant for two Chicago schools, “but Blagojevich allegedly delayed it in an effort to force Emanuel and one of the congressman's brothers to hold a fundraiser for him,” wrote the Chicago Tribune. “No fundraiser was held.”

Former Blagojevich confidants, including Chicago real estate developer Tony Rezko, found guilty on 16 of 24 charges related to political kickback schemes, and Monk, are apparently helping federal investigators. The indictment also includes allegations that Rezko directed real estate commissions to the firm where Rob Blagojevich’s wife Patti worked and later gave her a $12,000/month job.
Chicago-area and Illinois politicians were quick to deliver their take on the federal indictment. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ that he hoped that the former governor would not do the talk show circuit as he did in the days leading up to his ouster from office. Republican Judy Baar Topinka, a former Ill. state treasurer who ran against Blagojevich in the 2006 gubernatorial race, told WMAQ, “He has turned Illinois into a national punchline, shattered the public trust and left state government in financial ruins.”

The Blagojevich family was vacationing at Disney World in Florida on Thursday. Blagojevich issued a public statement that he was “saddened and hurt” by the indictment. A television reporter also attempted an interview as the Blagojeviches lounged near a pool. Patti Blagojevich threatened to call security while the former governor told the reporter, “I'm enjoying Disney World with my kids … And I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”

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Background: Blagojevich removed from office on corruption allegations

On Jan. 29, the Illinois state Senate voted unanimously to remove Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office, forever banning him from politics in the state. The lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, took over as governor of Illinois.

Among various corruption allegations, the erstwhile governor of Illinois was accused of soliciting bribes of as much as $1 million in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich also allegedly desired, in exchange for a preferential Senate appointment, a cabinet post or a post as an ambassador and six-figure salaried corporate board positions for his wife.

The man that Blagojevich eventually chose to fill the Senate seat, Sen. Roland Burris, has confronted a great deal of controversy since assuming the position.

Related Topic: Much Ado about Patti Blagojevich

Pundits have compared Rod Blagojevich’s wife Patti to Lady Macbeth, accusing her of being complicit in her husband’s alleged crimes. Since Rod Blagojevich was ousted from office on Jan. 29, Patti Blagojevich has been issued a federal subpoena for documents related to charges filed against her husband. Patti Blagojevich has reportedly been cooperative.
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