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All that grandstanding yesterday by Illinois Dem. Gov. Rod Blagojevich over the Republic Windows and Doors plant closure was smoke and mirrors to distract from his corruption scandal.
The FBI was keeping its eye on the ball.
Blagojevich was taken into custody today by federal agents, the Chicago Tribune reports. The dirtbag details, which prosecutors call “staggering:”
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.
Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning.
On the issue of the U.S. Senate selection, federal prosecutors alleged Blagojevich sought appointment as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.
Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.
“They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.”
Time to play: Name that party!
The 12-page USDOJ release is here. The intro:
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining: a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions; placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year; promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
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.
On November 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect and which is described in more detail below, Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could “monetize” the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office.
Some details of Blago’s pay-to-play schemes:
The charges include historical allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with others – including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others – since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain and attempt to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. A portion of the affidavit recounts the testimony of various witnesses at Rezko’s trial earlier this year.
The charges focus, however, on events since October when the Government obtained information that Blagojevich and Fundraiser A, who is chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, were accelerating Blagojevich’s allegedly corrupt fund-raising activities to accumulate as much money as possible this year before a new state ethics law would severely curtail Blagojevich’s ability to raise money from individuals and entities that have existing contracts worth more than $50,000 with the State of Illinois. Agents learned that Blagojevich was seeking approximately $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, principally from or through individuals or entities – many of which have received state contacts or appointments – identified on a list maintained by Friends of Blagojevich, which the FBI has obtained.
The affidavit details multiple incidents involving efforts by Blagojevich to obtain campaign contributions in connection with his official actions as governor, including these three in early October:
After an October 6 meeting with Harris and Individuals A and B, during which Individual B sought state help with a business venture, Blagojevich told Individual A to approach Individual B about raising $100,000 for Friends of Blagojevich this year.
Individual A said he later learned that Blagojevich reached out directly to Individual B to ask about holding a fund-raiser;
Also on October 6, Blagojevich told Individual A that he expected Highway Contractor 1 to raise $500,000 in contributions and that he was willing to commit additional state money to a Tollway project – beyond $1.8 billion that Blagojevich announced on October15 – but was waiting to see how much money the contractor raised for Friends of Blagojevich; and
On October 8, Blagojevich told Individual A that he wanted to obtain a $50,000 contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which had recently received a commitment of $8 million in state funds.
When the contribution was not forthcoming, Blagojevich discussed with Deputy Governor A the feasibility of rescinding the funding.
Fun fact from Tom Elia: “This makes for the fourth out of the last seven elected Illinois governors to be indicted since 1960 (Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich) … since 1972, 28 Chicago alderman have been convicted of crimes. If this number was extrapolated to the US House, it would be as if over 240 congressman had been indicted in the same period.”
Update 3:41pm Eastern. Blago is free on his own recognizance.
Update 4:25pm Eastern. Obama and his team contradict each other on who knew what when.