Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The jig is up
It was a clever play by Blago on his way out the door, and Roland Burris won his showdown with Harry Reid, but now? Well, now, it's not looking good for ole Roland.

The Chicago Tribune is calling for his resignation, on the following basis:
Let's see if we have it right: Burris had zero contact with any of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's cronies about his interest in the Senate seat being vacated by President Barack Obama—unless you count that conversation with former chief of staff Lon Monk, and, on further reflection, the ones with insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma and, oh yeah, the governor's brother and fundraising chief, Robert Blagojevich. But Burris didn't raise a single dollar for the now ex-governor as a result of those contacts because that could be construed as a quid pro quo and besides, everyone he asked refused to donate.

The story gets worse with every telling.

Enough. Roland Burris must resign.
Burris tried to fight back today, but I don't think he did himself much good.

“If I had done the things I’ve been accused of, I’d be too embarrassed to stand up here,” Burris said.

"Stop the rush to judgment. You know the real Roland. I have done nothing wrong and I have absolutely nothing to hide," he told the City Club of Chicago, a gathering of civic leaders, politicians and businesspeople.

Burris said he would cooperate "in any way I can" with a perjury review by the Sangamon County state's attorney into his sworn testimony as well as the preliminary investigation opened by the Senate Ethics Committee.

"I welcome the scrutiny," Burris said.

But he also made a point of saying he won't cooperate with the media, saying their scrutiny has not been fair. And then he invoked the classic political response in announcing he would no longer take reporters' questions.

Yeah. There's a good strategy. Screw the media.

Bye, Roland.

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posted by JReid @ 12:50 PM  
Friday, January 09, 2009
Blago impeached; Burris rebuffed


As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.

Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.

A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.

Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:

The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.

Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.

White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.

"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."

Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?

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posted by JReid @ 2:16 PM  
Thursday, January 08, 2009
When Roland met Harry
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.



By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...

I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.

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posted by JReid @ 8:40 AM  
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Feinstein to Harry: let Burris in
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 PM  
Burris turned away
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.

Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...

News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.

The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...

Waiting for the video...

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... the full Burris press conference:



And of course, a word from the new President Pro Tem of Black America, Bobby Rush, featuring his now infamous "standing in the schoolhouse door" comments:






UPDATE: The video, courtesy of AP...

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Harry bar the door
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...

CNN is doing it live!

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Sunday, January 04, 2009
On appointments under 'a cloud'
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from coolstamps.com]

During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:

On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.

On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.

And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:

*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999
Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas
Gary Feess Central District of California
Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut
W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi
Karen Schreier District of South Dakota

Vote 262: September 8, 1999
Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida
Vote 263: September 8, 1999
Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington

Vote 307: October 5, 1999
Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri

Vote 308: October 5, 1999
Brian T. Stewart District of Utah

Vote 309: October 5, 1999
Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit

And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.

What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?

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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Harry Reid's Waterloo
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:

Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.

[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.

Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.

The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.

The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.

So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.

In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.

UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:

No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...

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posted by JReid @ 10:47 AM  
Friday, January 02, 2009
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats.
Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.

And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.

At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.

Read the whole post here.

UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...

UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Blago bites back, makes his Senate appointment
Rod Blagojevich may be a nut-bag, or a sociopath, or a crook, or maybe all three. But he's no shrinking violet, and he's one heck of a chess player. By appointing a well qualified, respected black man, who just happens to be Illinois only statewide elected black official, to replace the nation's only black Senator, Blago just dared the Senate to tell a brotha 'no':

Brushing aside charges that he tried to sell Illinois' vacant U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the post today in defiance of Senate leaders who said they would not admit anyone he selected.

It was an abrupt about-face for Blagojevich, who had said after his Dec. 9 corruption arrest that he favored a special election to find a successor to President-elect Barack Obama. But Blagojevich said he acted after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly declined to approve legislation for a special election.

"Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," Blagojevich said while introducing Burris at a downtown news conference.

So what will Team Obama do? Issue a statement:

"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy."

But Blago knew what he was doing:

Blagojevich's move seemed designed to trump fellow Democrats who control the U.S. Senate and have unanimously warned him against making the appointment because of the criminal charges. His choice of Burris, Illinois' first African-American elected statewide, presents senators with the dilemma of saying no to a replacement for Obama, who was the nation's only black senator.

That point was driven home at the news conference by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago, who said it's a matter of national importance that an African-American replace Obama in the Senate.

"Let me just remind you that there presently is no African-American in the Senate...this is just not a state of Illinois matter," Rush said.

"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer," Rush also said. "Roland Burris is worthy."

The governor's announcement came less than an hour after U.S. Senate Democratic leadership issued a statement saying the Senate will not seat anyone Blagojevich chooses to fill Illinois' vacant Senate post. The statement also is signed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who has repeatedly urged Blagojevich not to name a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

So now Blago has put the Senate, including senior Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin, in an unenviable position: they can refuse to seat Burris, and deny a qualified black man the seat, or they can seat him, and watch Blago laugh all the way to the big house. However, things may not look so good for Mr. Burris:

Burris has given more than $20,000 to Blagojevich's campaign fund on his own and through his consulting and law firms, state campaign finance records show. Burris' consulting company received about $290,000 in state contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation a few years ago, according to state comptroller records.

Burris became the first African-American to win statewide office in 1978, when he won the first of his three terms as comptroller. But Burris repeatedly stalled in his quest for bigger political office. He failed in three consecutive runs for governor--1994, 1998 and 2002, when he ran against Blagojevich--in the Democratic primaries.

Uh oh... well, it was a good game of chicken while it lasted.



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posted by JReid @ 7:28 PM  
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Much ado about nothing
The Obama team releases the Blago report, and predictably, there's not much news in it (sorry, Fox News...)

The report was put together by attorney Greg Craig following Blagojevich's arrest for allegedly engaging in a scheme to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat, as well as other state appointments and services. ...

... Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and his adviser, Valerie Jarrett, all submitted to interviews with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald last week. Craig said neither Jarrett nor David Axelrod, another senior adviser, had any contact with Blagojevich or his office. The report did say that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of Obama's and a former Blagojevich cabinet member, was approached "by a member of the Governor's circle," deputy Gov. Louanner Peters, for information.

Obama has portrayed himself as taking a hands-off approach to the governor's decision about who to appoint to his Senate seat. In fact, the report noted that he was very much interested in who would succeed him in the Senate.

Once Jarrett said she was not interested in becoming a senator, Obama asked Emanuel to tell the governor that he would support Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Ill. Comptroller Dan Hynes and Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth. Later, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cheryl Jackson, a former Blagojevich spokeswoman who heads the Chicago Urban League, were added to the list.
No one in the Obama camp besides Rahm Emanuel talked to Blago or his chief of staff, and Obama and Emanuel have already talked to Pat Fitzgerald about Blagogate. Apparently, Fitz didn't hear anything alarming.

Probably the only new piece of news to come out of the report is that despite the assertions of the Chicago papers, and all the brouhaha those assertions created for "Senate Candidate #5,", Jesse Jackson Jr. WAS on Obama's short list. Oh, and Valerie Jarrett considered the idea of Blago heading HHS to be "ridiculous," which it was, given the games he played with Children's Hospital. I'm sure this won't stop the Roger Simons and Fox News' of the world from continuing to go after Obama on this, but there you go. If you're still exercised after that, read the report online at TPM here.



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posted by JReid @ 12:03 AM  
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The Jackson Five
Here's a fact the media glossed over: remember when Jesse Jackson Jr. was finally fingered as "Senate Candidate #5" in the Blago scandal? Well, what did Jr. do? No, besides call a press conference and start doing sit-down interviews, stat!...? He lawyered up. Well guess who else hired counsel:

In news that is very ominous for Candidate 5 and his family, Jesse Jackson Jr is not the only one who has lawyered up since Blago's arrest on Tuesday. Jesse Jackson Sr has done so too (h/t nextstopchicago and choochmac).

Also, the congressman's father, Jesse Jackson Sr., has retained legal council following the Blagojevich arrest.

That's from way back on December 11. And it's just one of five reasons the Blago scandal really, really sucks for Jesse Jr:

#5. His family's rep is already tainted, by his dad's past ... um ... deal making. And now, he's hired a lawyer? Not good.

#4. It's now clear that Jr. wasn't on the list that Rahm Emanuel submitted to Blago of preferred Senate candidates, which means that either Team Obama didn't feel that Jackson could win the seat statewide, or that there is some other, unknown problem between the Jackson and Obama camps. Either way, not good news.

#3. Jackson might actually be innocent. In fact, the latest news is that he's been informing on Blago for a decade. But if that's the case, one has to wonder how his reputation within his own community might suffer from finding out that he's a federal rat.

#2. Jackson might not be so innocent. If he has known what Blago wanted in exchange for appointments for ten years, why did he allow his emissaries to create even the impression that he was willing to pay the piper? The chain of events certainly makes the Congressman look naive. And naivete does not a Senator make.

#1. No matter how you slice it, Jackson's possibilities of becoming a Senator, already slim, have sunk to none. And with his prospects, probably go his influence with the incoming adminstration -- something he worked tirelessly during the campaign to cultivate.

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posted by JReid @ 4:32 PM  
Blago the bookie?
As if he doesn't have enough problems, (though he did have some better luck with the Illinois Supreme Court today,) Rod "Blago" Blagojevich is now being accused of being a mob-paying bookie back in the day:

A former Chicago lawyer who went undercover for the FBI said that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) was once a bookmaker with ties to the mafia.

Robert Cooley, who testified for the FBI in corruption cases, told ABC 7 in Chicago that Blagojevich paid the mob to let him operate as a bookie.

"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs," Cooley said. "He was paying street tax to the mob out there."

Cooley also worked as a police officer, and his undercover work and testimony led to the convictions of 24 politicians, cops, judges and lawyers on corruption charges.

Cooley said he wasn't surprised to see Blagojevich in legal trouble.

"I predicted five years ago when he ran the first time that he was a hands on person who would be selling every position in the state of Illinois and that it exactly what happened," he said.

Read and watch the full story here. Of course, Blago's real crime might be that he's still wearing his high school hair. Get a load of this:


Wow...

The pic was listed on Ebay, and is from Blago's 1975 Foremanual Foreman high school vol. 36 yearbook, Chicago, Illinois. The item is no longer for sale.

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posted by JReid @ 4:22 PM  
Joe, Rahm, and the right wing rainbow
The right is going overboard to try and tar Barack Obama with the Blago brush. So desperate and tacky are they, that even Newt Gingrich has noticed. As you might expect, the winger cudgel has been taken up by the dutiful GOPer "Morning Joe" Scarborough, who has never let a little journalism job get in the way of his politics.

This morning, Joe harangued Obama chief strategist David Axelrod (a former journalist, just to add to the irony...) on the supposed "fact" that Rahm Emanuel (Obama's chief of staff and former Congressman from the Chicago area) "told (reporter) Ryan Lizza that he and Obama ran Rod Blagojevich's gubernatorial campaign in 2002." Really? Is that what Lizza wrote, Joe? Let's review:

In the now infamous New Yorker magazine whose controversial cover featured a cartoon parody of the Obamas fist bumping in their black power and Muslim gear, reporter Ryan Lizza did indeed write in detail about Obama's rise in Chicago politics, and did indeed quote Rahm Emanuel, as Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet summarizes:
*Lizza reports that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) told him that Obama was a “top strategist” for Gov. Blagojevich’s first gubernatorial campaign.

“He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.” A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel’s account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama’s role.”

*The 2000 remap of state senate districts is a critical benchmark in the Obama history. With Democrats in control of the legislature—winning the ability to dictate the maps—Obama in 2001 was able to create a district that stretched from Hyde Park to the Gold Coast. That let him connect with a network of wealthy donors whose support was crucial to his future success

“In the end, Obama’s North Side fund-raising base and his South Side political base were united in one district. He now represented Hyde Park operators like Lois Friedberg-Dobry as well as Gold Coast doyennes like Bettylu Saltzman, and his old South Side street operative Al Kindle as well as his future consultant David Axelrod.”

Rahm "running Blago's campaign?" No, Joe. And as a former politician, Joe knows exactly what those passages mean. Politicians develop a base of operations, which includes donors, and precinct maps that helped them get elected. Often, they use their base to help other politicians from their party to get elected, too. I'm sure the staffers, and the campaign manager, who actually did run Blagojevich's campaign, would differ with Joe's characterization of Obama's role.

Meanwhile, the media continues to ride the Blago gravy train, with more news coming out of Chicago:

From the Sun-Times, word that Rahm Emanuel sought to get Obama pal Valerie Jarrett appointed to his Senate seat (presumably the subject of many of those "21 hits" on the wiretaps, as reported by the paper's Michael Sneed.

Eric Holder will now get dragged into the mix, as the Sun-Times reports that he omitted information about his Blago connections on his A.G. questionnaire.

Meanwhile, the Blago impeachment stalls, amid witness jitters by our friendly neighborhood Fitzprosecutor.

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 AM  
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The R Kelly - Blago connection
They've got something in common...

Same town, same lawyer...

On Friday, in his first public comments since his arrest, the governor did not rule out the possibility he might resign. As he left the federal courthouse after a visit to the pretrial services office, a reporter asked the governor, "Do you have anything to say to the people of Illinois?"

He replied, "I will at the appropriate time. Absolutely."

Also Friday, Blagojevich retained the lawyer who defended R&B singer R. Kelly and disgraced media mogul Conrad Black to represent him in his criminal case.

Ed Genson, one of Chicago's top criminal-defense attorneys, said he was assembling a team of lawyers to assist with the case. Genson typically doesn't represent clients who plan to plead guilty.

At least Blago didn't pee on anyone ... that we know of ...

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posted by JReid @ 5:04 PM  
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Jesse Jackson makes his case (for the Senate)
Jesse Jackson Jr. just completed a press conference in which he emphatically defended himself against the taint of Blago's corruption, saying he believed, and still believes, that he would be the most qualified and best candidate for the U.S. Senate based on his record, including 13 years in the House of Representatives, and he said that at no time did he engage in "pay to play" politics with Blago. A couple of key lines:

JJ said he:
Met with Gov. Blagojevich for the first time in four years on Tuesday, and presented my qualifications and my record. ... The media saw me enter Gov. Blagojevich's office. ... The media saw me exit the governor's office.
He added that he did not send an emissary with the explicit or implicit message to Blago that he would fundraise for the governor in exchange for an appointment. Said Jax:
I had no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initate or authorize anyone to promise Gov. Blagojevich anything on my behalf
It was clear from the presentation that Jr. is still very much stalking that Senate seat, and that he hopes to cleanse himself enough to get Obama to not stand in his way. He still wants it, baby.


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posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Don't get too full of yourself, Illinois...
Old Dixie still rules when it comes to corruption. As of 2006, according to Corporate Crime Reporter:
Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the nation.

That’s according to an analysis of government data released today by Corporate Crime Reporter.

Louisiana (1), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (3), Alabama (4) and Ohio (5) are the top five most corrupt states in the country, according to the analysis.

Rounding out the top ten are Illinois (6), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (8), New Jersey (9), and New York (10).

“If you type the word ‘corruption’ into Google News, the vast majority of news stories that come up are from overseas,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, a print weekly legal newsletter based in Washington, D.C. “But public corruption is booming right here in the USA.”

“There have been more than 20,000 public officials and private citizens convicted of public corruption over the past two decades,” Mokhiber said. “That’s an average of 1,000 a year for the last twenty years.”
Interestingly enough, the site relies on statistics from the Bush Justice Department's Public Integrity Sector, which strangely, hasn't completed a report since. And many of the states in the corruption "top five" are also tops in federal spending per capita vs. tax dollars paid in: particularly the southern states of Mississippi (#2), Alabama (#7) and Kentucky (#9).

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posted by JReid @ 4:14 PM  
Next shoe: Did the Trib try to trade an editor for a tax break?
From ABC News:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich believed the billionaire owner of the troubled Tribune Co. news empire agreed to fire a top editor at his Chicago paper in exchange for a tax break worth over $100 million, federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday.

Executives at the Chicago Tribune did not fire the editor, John P. McCormick, whom prosecutors believe Blagojevich had targeted. In fact, during the alleged machinations between the governor and the paper's owner, the paper's editorial staff was actually cooperating with the federal probe into the governor which resulted in his arrest Tuesday, by holding from print an exclusive story that FBI agents had secretly recorded the governor's conversations.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Tribune Co. said "the actions of the company, its executives and advisors working on the disposition of Wrigley Field have been appropriate at all times," and that "no one working for the company or on its behalf has ever attempted to influence staffing decisions at the Chicago Tribune or any aspect of the newspaper's editorial coverage as a result of conversations with officials in the governor's administration." ...

It just never stops...

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posted by JReid @ 3:47 PM  
All in the family
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones
and the Rev. Jesse Jackson celebrate together following Barack Obama's
Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech Thursday,
Aug. 28, 2008 in Denver. Abdon Pallasch photo. Courtesy of Flickr


The media is going to have a pre-Christmas feast on the carcasses of Rod Blagojevich and the newly named "Senate Candidate #5," Jesse Jackson Jr., the latter in no small part because only he, of the two, can be tied closely to Barack Obama.

I spoke with a source close to JJJr, who also has known Barack since the days of Jr.'s run for Congress. The source told me that the relationship really goes through Michelle, who was close enough to Jr.'s sister, Santita, that Jr. used to say Michelle and Santita, as teens, would "babysit" him and his younger siblings. The source said that while the women are, or were, close, Jr. and Obama were more "political friends" than actual ones. The quote was, "they weren't going to each other's houses, or anything like that..."

So why, I asked, might Obama NOT want Jr. to have his Senate seat, as the related passages in the Blago indictment implies? My source, who is not as close to Jr. as in recent years, but who still knows all the players, says the only obvious reason would be Jesse Jackson Sr.'s antics during the campaign, and the potential for continued embarassment should Jr. ascend to the Senate. Or maybe he just doesn't think he's qualified. Otherwise, Jr.'s stumping for Obama, as his national co-chair, was pretty thorough (he was in Miami a few days before E-day, and did a great job I have to say...) And Jr. has been very openly lobbying for the seat, in what could be called tacky fashion. If you go by the indictment, he wanted it really, really bad. From the FBI affidavit:
Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "President elect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.
Meanwhile, among the questions that remain: where was Jesse going to get the up-front money, and who was going to deliver on the back end? What is clear is that Jr. comes across in the indcitment as both shady AND untrustworthy, even to an alleged crook like Blago:

"ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that ROD BLAGOJEVICH had a problem with Senate Candidate 5 just promising to help ROD BLAGOJEVICH because ROD BLAGOJEVICH had a prior bad experience with Senate Candidate 5 not keeping his word."

And yet, the indictment claims that Blago felt fairly confident that Jr. could come up with the dough:

"On December 4, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke to Advisor B and informed Advisor B that he was giving Senate Candidate 5 greater consideration for the Senate seat because, among other reasons, if ROD BLAGOJEVICH ran for re-election Senate Candidate 5 would "raise[] money" for ROD BLAGOJEVICH, although ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5 to insure Senate Candidate 5 kept his promise about raising money for ROD BLAGOJEVICH. (In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.")"

Could the "other guy" be Dear Old Dad? Or could the "other guy" be Illinois State Sen. President Emil Jones, the political ally whom Obama called during the presidential campaign to push him to switch his vote in favor of an ethics bill Blago opposed? He had been the chief suspect in blogland before today's JJJ bombshell. Either way, this whole mess doesn't say much that's good about either Illinois politics, or Illinois Black politics...

Anyhoo, watch JJ's interview with ABC News here. So far, he denies that he was involved in pay to play:

"It is impossible for someone on my behalf to have a conversation that would suggest any type of quid pro quo or any payments or offers," Jackson told ABC News. "An impossibility to an absolute certainty."
Jr. will be holding a press conference shortly.

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posted by JReid @ 2:44 PM  
Oh my damn... Jesse Jackson Jr. IS Senate Candidate #5
The Chicago Sun Times outs Junior:

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is “Senate Candidate 5,” who — through an emissary — allegedly offered to raise money for Gov. Blagojevich in return for being appointed as Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate, sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times.

The alleged offering was caught on a wiretap secretly planted by the feds.

“In a recorded conversation on October 31, 2008, Rod Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate Five as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator,” the affadavit accompanying Blagojevich's criminal complaint states.

Speculation has centered that Jackson is Senate Candidate 5 since the complaint was released Tuesday. Jackson, who has aggressively campaigned for the Senate seat, told ABC news that he has not “been informed” by federal prosecutors that he is Senate Candidate 5.

Jackson said he is “not a target” of any probe, but the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has sought to interview him.

“I would like to do that as quickly as possible,” Jackson said.

In a statement last night, Jackson said, “I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing.”

JJJ's name has been batted around the blogosphere, but it had been kind of knocked down yesterday. Now, it's back. Sounds like Dear Old Dad was handing down the family business. The inevitable conclusion here is that Jesse Sr. may have been the third party who would raise $1 million for Blago after Jr. came up with the first $500k. Nasty stuff. Looks like Marc Ambinder had it right, while TNR and TSG (and myself) got it wrong.

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posted by JReid @ 2:07 PM  
Obama's role in Blago's fall
Sorry, Joe Scarborough. The only ties between Barack Obama and Blago are firmly in the negative. From this morning's New York Times:
In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.

Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama. One official whose name has long been mentioned in Chicago political circles as a potential successor is Mr. Jones, a machine politician who was viewed as a roadblock to ethics reform but is friendly with Mr. Obama.

Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.

By the time Mr. Obama intervened on the ethics measure, his relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, always defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry, had cooled as the governor became increasingly engulfed in legal troubles. There is nothing in the criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday to indicate that Mr. Obama knew anything about plans to seek money and favors in exchange for his Senate seat; he has never been implicated in any other “pay to play” cases that have emerged from the long-running investigation of the Blagojevich administration.
The article reveals Obama's penchant for some relationships of political convenience, some common ties between himself, Blago and Tony Rezko, and Blagojevich's presidential ambitions (to run in 2008, no less) but mostly, it illustrates how distant, and cool, the relationship between Obama and the fallen Illinois governor has long been. Not exactly the stuff of Whitewater. Again, sorry, Joe Scarborough. I know you were hoping for a major takedown of "the chosen one."

Moreover, it may have been Rahm Emanuel, Obama's newly minted chief of staff, who tipped off the feds about Blago's dirty dealings.

UPDATE: A source close to Rahm E is knocking down the fed tip story (via TPM).

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Burning questions: who is 'Senate Candidate #5"?
The parlor game begins. And whoever this guy is, he's in big trouble, because apparently he was willing to play ball with Blago on some monetary love in exchange for Obama's Senate Seat.


Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a President elect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.
In other words -- if Blago doesn't get what he wanted, then he'd stiff the PEOTUS by appointing someone he didn't like -- Senate Candidate 5.
And what's more...

Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich claimed he was approached by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, 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."

On November 7, while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is "financially"
hurting, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the "financial security" of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich "politically viable." Blagojevich stated, "I want to make money," adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges.


So who are the anonymous candidates? ABC News IDs "Senate Candidate #1" as Obama pal Valerie Jarret:

The Senate candidate whom Blago at one point thought that President-elect Obama seemed most likely to be supporting -- friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, who later took herself out of the running and will be a White House Senior Adviser -- is discussed, as "Senate Candidate 1."

Jarrett referred ABC News to the Obama Transition Team for comment; they did not have one.

Ultimately, it appears that neither PEBO nor Jarrett were willing to discuss any of Blago's various notions of how he could sell them the seat. Talking to his chief of staff on November 11, Blago said he knew PEBO wanted Jarrett to get the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them."

Which leaves the burning question of who is "Senate Candidate #5"?

Could it be ... Jesse Jackson Jr.? It could, but where would he get his hands on that kind of dough? Dad, perhaps? TNR's Jason Zengerie slaps down that theory, while providing another:


Marc Ambinder speculates that it's Jesse Jackson Junior, given the timing of a meeting he had with Blago. But that doesn't seem right to me, since it's also clear from the complaint that Blago believed Obama was opposed to Candidate 5. I can't think of any reason why Obama would oppose Jesse Junior moving over to the Senate. As I reported for the print mag early this year, Obama's relationship with Jesse Senior may be fraught, but he's actually fairly close to Jesse Junior. And, presumably, their relationship grew stronger over the course of the campaign, during which Jesse Junior did yeoman's work for Obama, the least of which was slapping down his dad when he did something against Obama's interests.

The Smoking Gun, meanwhile, says that Candidate 5 is Emil Jones. Obama's relationship with Jones (who, btw, is a sworn enemy of Jesse Junior's) is much, much more complex. Yes, Obama famously cultivated Jones as his political godfather in the State Senate, but that's always seemed like one of those relationships that Obama was happy to leave behind in Springfield. Given some of the baggage that comes with Jones's old-school, machine ways--a number of his family members are on the public payroll, and he's worked hard to make sure his son inherits his legislative seat--I could see how Obama might not want Jones in Washington. What's more, Brad Plumer calls my attention to this post from the Capitol Fax blog, which points out that Jones was mentioned by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed a few days after Blago discussed leaking Candidate 5's name, and that Jones has a huge war chest, so it wouldn't be hard for him to come up with $500k.
Interesting theory, and ont that, like the whole Rev. Wright mess, would be awkward for Obama, though no threat to him legally or in the end, politically, since Obama has done the man no favors and clearly, from the Blago tapes, doesnt' want this person in the Senate. Ben Smith of Politico adds more clues:
Here's what we know. Candidate 5 is:

-"publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat"
- not who Blagojevich thought Obama wanted
- not someone with whom, by November 10, Blagojevich had a "long, productive discussion"
- someone with fundraising wherewithal who could produce something "tangible up front"
- someone Blago was "getting a lot of pressure" not to appoint
- someone with whom Blago had "a prior bad experience...not keeping his word"


And concludes:

The complaint also says that on November 10, Blagojevich told an advisor to leak to the Sun-Times's Michael Sneed that Blagojevich "is seriously considering Senate Candidate 5 for the open Senate seat" and that the advisor agreed to call the Sun-Times to leak the story, apparently false, that Blagojevich end of the conversation Advisor A agreed to call the Sun Times columnist to leak the story had a “long, productive discussion” with Candidate 5.

Sneed's November 14 column included this:

Sneed hears Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate, privately feels there may be only one choice that makes sense: His buddy, outgoing Senate President Emil Jones.
Here we go... More of the parlor game here.

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posted by JReid @ 8:15 PM  
Victory for Republic Windows workers
One piece of good news out of Chi-town:
Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Republic Windows & Doors workers who staged a protest at the company’s Chicago factory won a victory today when Bank of America Corp. offered loans to the firm to resolve a pay dispute.

Bank of America said in a statement today that it was “prepared to provide a limited amount of additional” loans to Republic and “expressed concern” over “Republic’s failure to pay their employees the employee Claims to which they are legally entitled.” Workers were upset that they did not receive vacation pay when the plant shut down.

Workers blamed Bank of America, the biggest U.S. retail bank, for the factory’s Dec. 5 closure after it canceled a line of credit to the manufacturer, whose sales have been gutted by the housing slump. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank has received $15 billion from the U.S. Treasury as part of its effort to boost capital, while Merrill Lynch & Co., the securities brokerage it is buying, has gotten $10 billion.

The workers’ union has been planning a rally at noon tomorrow at the Bank of America building in downtown Chicago. The factory sit-in has become the center of the debate over how more than $700 billion in federal funds are used to help the world’s largest economy weather the worst economic decline since the 1930s. Government bailout money should be used to help businesses such as Republic rather than Wall Street firms and global banks, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represents the Republic workers, said on its Web site.

Good for them.

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posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
The Chicago Five
Feeling lonely, Rod Blagojevich? Not to worry, you've got company in the history of corrupt illinois governors:
Should Mr. Blagojevich end up in prison, he will join predecessors including the following:

Republican George Ryan, who is currently serving a 6 1/2-year stretch in federal prison for racketeering and fraud. Blagojevich, along with Sen. Richard Durbin, has publicly supported an appeal to the White House for the commutation of Mr. Ryan's sentence.

Otto Kerner, a Democrat who was convicted in 1973 on 17 counts of bribery, conspiracy, perjury and other charges before being sentenced to three years in the pen. The federal prosecutor in that case, James Thompson, later ascended to the governor's chair and wound up getting his law firm to defend Ryan for free.

Dan Walker was convicted in 1987 -- years after leaving office -- of bank fraud. Serving from 1973 to 1977, with a reputation as a reformer, he was the last Democratic governor of the state before Mr. Blagojevich took office in 2003.

Lennington Small, a Republican, served from 1921 to 1929. He was indicted while in office for embezzlement related to actions taken when he was state treasurer. He was later acquitted; several of the jurors in the case ended up with state jobs.

Also, in one infamous case further down the chain, a former speaker of the state's House of Representatives and secretary of state, Paul Powell, was found after his death in 1970 to have had several million dollars in embezzled cash stashed in shoe boxes.

Mr. Powell, according to a Time magazine article at the time, had his own definition of success, believing that "there's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one."
And let's not leave out Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who went from the House to the Big House in 1994 on 17 counts of corruption. Rosty...
... was indicted in 1994 on 17 felony charges, including the embezzlement of $695,000 in taxpayer and campaign funds. The longtime House Ways and Means chairman plea-bargained his way down to two counts of mail fraud and served 17 months in a Wisconsin minimum-security prison.
Still, don't fool yourself. Illinois may do it flashier, but pay to play corruption is far form limited to politicians in that state. It takes place all over the country. I'd bet you could even turn some up right here in Florida, if you were keen to look for it ...



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posted by JReid @ 7:33 PM  
Nothng but sunshine
Is Rod Blagojevich the most arrogant politician in America, or just the dumbest? This was the Felonious Mr. Blag yesterday at the Republic Windows and Doors protest, daring the media, and purportedly, prosecutors, to wiretap him:

Meanwhile, Blag says that despite the evidence on tape, and his jailbird status, he will not resign:
"He didn't do anything wrong," attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters after Blagojevich was arraigned. "A lot of this is just politics."

Blagojevich should be in the office Wednesday, Sorosky added.

So, reporters asked, he does not intend to resign?

"Not that I know of, no," said Sorosky, who added that the governor was "surprised" by the day's events.

Yeah, that's one hell of a surprise.

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posted by JReid @ 6:35 PM  
The Blagojevich file
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (left) and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (right)

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich gets Fitzed:

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said today that federal authorities arrested Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich this morning because the governor went on "a political corruption crime spree" that needed to be stopped.

Fitzgerald said secret tape recordings showed Blagojevich was attempting "to sell the U.S. Senate seat" that President-elect Barack Obama recently vacated. Fitzgerald said, "We make no allegations" that Obama was aware of any alleged scheming by Blagojevich.

The governor has the sole power to pick Obama's replacement under the state constitution.

"The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," Fitzgerald said, quoting Blagojevich as saying the Senate seat is "a bleeping valuable thing. You just don't give it away. ... I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden."

Fitzgerald called the corruption charges against Blagojevich "a truly new low."

Blagojevich wasn't against the corrupt deal for the Senate seat, he was against "being stiffed in the corrupt deal," Fitzgerald said.

The remarks came at a news conference to discuss charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris. Blagojevich and Harris are scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge of the Chicago office, characterized Illinois' place in the pantheon of political corruption.

"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor," Grant said. "Even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked."

Grant said he called Blagojevich about 6 a.m. and told the governor two FBI agents were outside his door and that they had a warrant for his arrest.

After initially asking, "Is this a joke?" Grant said, Blagojevich was "very cooperative."

Grant said the arrest of Blagojevich should serve as notice that "business as usual will no longer be tolerated. That selling your office for personal gain is a thing of the past."

So what was on those wiretaps? For that, we go to The Smoking Gun:

DECEMBER 9--The criminal complaint filed today against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich contains a remarkable section detailing the Democratic politician's alleged attempt to cash in on his ability to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Attached to the U.S. District Court complaint is an FBI affidavit, excerpted below, alleging that Blagojevich was caught on wiretaps noting that the Senate seat "is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing." He was also recorded saying that unless "I get something real good," he would appoint himself to the vacancy. "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

According to surreptitiously recorded conversations, Blagojevich spoke with associates about the possibility of trading the Senate post for either an ambassadorship or a Cabinet post. The politician, according to the affidavit sworn by FBI Agent Daniel Cain, "analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to various teams."

During a wiretapped November 10 call, a frustrated and financially strapped Blagojevich referred to Obama as a "motherfucker" and said that he would not appoint an ally of the President-elect to the Senate vacancy if "I don't get anything." Referring to Obama, Blagojevich exclaimed, "Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him." In a November 11 conversation, Blagojevich remarked that he knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidante, to succeed him, "but they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them." Blagojevich, 51, and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested this morning on political corruption charges. While the affidavit does not specifically name the six prospective Senate candidates discussed by Blagojevic, Harris, and the governor's aides, it appears that several are easily identified. "Senate Candidate 1" is Jarrett. "Senate Candidate 2" is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Emil Jones, an Illinois state legislator, is "Senate Candidate 5." And "Senate Candidate 6" appears to be J.P. Pritzker, a wealthy Chicago businessman. Additionally, Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, is referred to in the affidavit as "President-elect Advisor."

TSG has the docs, too. And Fitz isn't done. He's now soliciting any new information that would-be informants would want to provide. How stupid was Blagojevich, by the way? He committed the new alleged crimes tied to the Obama Senate seat AFTER knowing he was already under investigation. Wow. Special election, anyone?



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posted by JReid @ 2:01 PM  
Down goes Blagojevich
The Illinois governor was taken into custody this morning in a widening "pay to play" scandal that now includes the appointment of Barack Obama's successor in the Senate. From the Tribune (which we hope survives the bankruptcy, along with the Cubs...):
The stunning, early morning visit by authorities to the governor's North Side home came amid revelations that federal investigators had recorded the governor with the cooperation of a longtime confidant and had begun to focus on the possibility that the process of choosing a Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama could be tainted by pay-to-play politics.

Blagojevich was taken into custody hours after the Tribune reported that the investigation into allegations of pay-to-play politics within his administration had been expanded to include his pending choice of a Senate replacement for Obama. The Democratic governor has said he expects to make a decision on the state's next senator in weeks.

Sources told the Tribune that investigators intensified their investigation into Blagojevich amid concerns that the process of choosing a new senator could be tainted. The actions by federal authorities came a day before Blagojevich's 52nd birthday.

The Tribune previously disclosed that federal investigators had recordings of Blagojevich. Those recordings were aided by the cooperation of longtime Blagojevich confidant and former congressional chief of staff John Wyma.

On Monday, Blagojevich said he has done nothing wrong in his stewardship of the state and challenged critics to record him because his discussions were "always lawful."
The governor's chief of staff, John Harris, was also arrested. More:
Updated at 9:17 a.m.: Blagojevich also was alleged to be using a favors list, made up largely of individuals and firms that have state contracts or received taxpayer benefits, from which to conduct a $2.5 million fundraising drive before year's end.

Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged.

The complaint repeatedly references conversations secretly recorded by federal authorities.

The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, (expletive) 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Questions, including about the secret taping of the governor, will be many... And what does this mean for Jesse Jackson Jr. and the other contenders for Obama's seat? Tick tock...

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posted by JReid @ 10:22 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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