A New Low: Corrupted Dems Put Obama's Senate Seat up for Sale

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A New Low: Corrupted Dems Put Obama's Senate Seat up for Sale

Postby Lady Dragonfly » Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:58 am

Well, as an Illinois resident, I know all too well how corrupted our politicians are, Dems and Reps alike. That's why I am not surprised that yet another Governor has been arrested on corruption charges.

[color="Wheat"]CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.

A 76-page FBI affidavit says the 51-year-old Democrat was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to use the vacant Senate seat to obtain personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

<snip>

At a press conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald accused Blagojevich of "appalling conduct" and embarking on a "political corruption crime spree".

He said Blagojevich "has taken us to a truly new low".

Blagojevich and John Harris, the governor's chief of staff, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

<snip>

He noted becoming a U.S. senator might remake his image for a possible presidential run in 2016, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit quotes Blagojevich telling an adviser later that day that a Senate seat "is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."

In a conversation with Harris on November 4, the day of the election, Blagojevich is alleged to have compared his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to the highest bidder.

On November 5, Blagojevich allegedly told an adviser, "I've got this thing and it's [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I'm not gonna do it."

<snip>

The charges also state that in a conversation with Harris on November 11, Blagojevich said he knew that President-elect Obama wanted a specific candidate for the open Senate seat but added "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them."

Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney, said the charges "allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator."

<snip>

Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal Operation Board Games involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Blagojevich.

Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama, is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges.

Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

<snip>

Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up Ryan's mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

FBI spokesman Frank Bochte said federal agents arrested the governor and Harris simultaneously at their homes at 6:15 a.m. and took them to the Chicago FBI headquarters. [/color]

Feds: Ill. gov tried to 'auction' Obama's seat - Politics- msnbc.com
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Postby dragon wench » Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:15 pm

I just saw that, pretty bad..

Why are Illinois politics as corrupt? I've heard that quite a lot, and I'm curious as to the background.
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Postby VonDondu » Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:04 pm

dragon wench wrote:Why are Illinois politics as corrupt? I've heard that quite a lot, and I'm curious as to the background.

The entry at Wikipedia offers a short but informative explanation.

Illinois is by no means the only state that has a history of political corruption. If you want an entertaining introduction to other examples of American political corruption, two colorful examples spring to mind. The first is a fictional movie called The Big Easy which is based on the corruption found in New Orleans. It stars Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, and it's a love story as well as a crime drama, so it hits a lot of different "buttons", if you know what I mean. Bring popcorn, or wine, whichever you prefer. :) The other example is the memoir of a political boss in early 20th century New York City called Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics. It's short and easy to read, but you could spend weeks analyzing its underlying political philosophy. It's sort of like a homey, down to earth version of Machiavelli's The Prince.

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Postby Lady Dragonfly » Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:14 pm

Why are Illinois politicians corrupt? We are talking about our infamous Chicago political machine.
A few facts:

[color="Wheat"]An Infamous Past

We are the Land of Lincoln. But the last half of the 20th century in Illinois politics has been dominated by names and phrases less frequently associated with great virtue and noble causes.

Orville Hodge, state auditor of public accounts, was convicted in 1956 of embezzling $2 million in state funds.
Paul Powell, secretary of state, stashed $900,000 cash in shoeboxes in his hotel room; they were discovered after his death in 1970.
Otto Kerner, governor, was convicted in 1972 on income tax charges involving stock in race tracks acquired while in office
Cement Bribery, a former state senate president, three other legislators, and a lobbyist were convicted in 1975 of a scheme to influence legislation regulating truck hauling.
Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago, presided over the legendary political machine in Chicago and Cook County from 1955 until his death in 1976.
Operation Greylord, a federal investigation into the Chicago court system, was completed in 1988 with convictions and guilty pleas from 87 court personnel and attorneys, including 13 judges.
William J. Scott, Illinois attorney general, was convicted in 1991 of income tax charges involving misuse of campaign funds.
Operation Silver Shovel, a federal investigation into corruption in Chicago city government, ended in 1996 with 18 convictions and guilty pleas from public employees and six aldermen.
Daniel Rostenkowski, congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was convicted in 1996 of mail fraud charges related to public corruption.
Management Services of Illinois, its two principal officers, and two Illinois Department of Public Aid officials were convicted of fraud and bribery in 1998 after a federal investigation into that agency’s awarded contracts.

A Scandalous Present

The turn of a new century has not ushered in a new era of clean politics in Illinois. Rather, political corruption has continued with a vengeance in all its traditional forms: influence peddling, political patronage, bribes, extortion, fraud, misappropriation of funds, and vote fraud.
Operation Safe Road, a federal investigation into former Governor George Ryan’s eight-year tenure as secretary of state resulted in the 2003 conviction of his campaign fund and his chief of staff on federal racketeering charges. George Ryan was indicted in 2004. At the end of 2005, there had been 73 convictions or guilty pleas as a result of the investigation and George Ryan’s trial was still in progress.
Hired Truck Scandal, a federal investigation into corruption in a public program in Chicago, resulted in 37 indictments and 26 guilty pleas in 2005. The investigation broadened into an investigation of hiring practices by the city of Chicago.
East St. Louis Vote Fraud Scandal, a federal investigation into vote fraud and public corruption in the city of East St. Louis, ended in 2005 with the conviction of one current and one former city official and seven precinct workers. In December, a former city police chief was convicted on political corruption and tax fraud.
Other 2005 Highlights included the resignation of a state legislator after being convicted of election fraud; the indictment of the chief of staff to a former House speaker on public corruption charges; the indictment of a board member of a state pension fund and the conviction of two representative of
investment firms for a kickback scheme; the ongoing federal investigations into the awarding of contracts by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and the hiring practices in the office of the governor and two state agencies.[/color]
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Postby Claudius » Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:17 pm

What does it mean the part about selling the seat? Isn't the vacated seat have no vote until the next election when it will be contested between repubs and dems?

I understood that there was evidence of corruption, I just didn't understand how they could actually sell a seat in congress.
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Postby McBane » Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:01 pm

Claudius wrote:What does it mean the part about selling the seat? Isn't the vacated seat have no vote until the next election when it will be contested between repubs and dems?

I understood that there was evidence of corruption, I just didn't understand how they could actually sell a seat in congress.


There are different rules for the Senate and the House of Rep. In the House, all vacancies are filled by election. The Senate allows states to appoint a replacement. Most states that choose this option allow the governor to select the replacement. Our esteemed gov (I'm in IL also) was looking for kickbacks from whomever he appointed.

It seems Sen Durbin (IL's other senator) is calling for a special election. We will probably need one anyway for Rahm Emmanuel's position, as he is in the House. This of course means more taxpayer money to fund the election.

While I am not suprised of more corruption in our state government, I am kinda shocked that Gov. B was involved, as corruption charges have been association with him for quite awhile. If you think you're under investigation for this type of behavior, it's beyond reason why you would continue said behavior. I think he's a few fries short of a happy meal. :rolleyes:
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Postby fable » Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:15 pm

I wouldn't call this "a new low." Senate seats have been given in the past as gifts of gratitude to potential candidates who bowed out of presidential party races. Ambassadorial appointments are regularly given out to the biggest financial donors. (Bush was only notorious in the respect that he gave out top tier ambassadorships to donors, instead of just second tier ones.) There is a lengthy history of such tradeoffs in both parties, which regard themselves as an aristocratic class above the law. It hasn't helped that the Bush administration has covered for so much criminal activity and corruption during its 8 years, nor that Obama and his surrogates have pointedly stated that there will be no criminal investigations. This only fosters the sense that if you occupy a good governmental office, you can get away with nearly anything.
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Postby Lady Dragonfly » Tue Dec 09, 2008 4:12 pm

While you may be right, Fable, and this is not a truly *new* low for our Illinois politicians, this sordid scandal once again highlighted Obama's dubious political ties. Tony Rezko is Obama's close friend, business partner and fundraiser.
About Obama/Blagojevich relationship: Political Punch


Whatever the outcome, this scandal is a God-sent Christmas gift for the GOP.
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Postby fable » Tue Dec 09, 2008 4:24 pm

LD, I must be missing something, because that ABC piece didn't have one bit of evidence linking Obama to Blagojevich. Instead, it seemed to be saying that someone in the Obama campaign must have been speaking to someone near Blagojevich, for the latter to know Obama didn't support him. I personally don't like much about Obama, but that's hardly a thunderbolt.

As to Rezko, he's not mentioned in the piece, either. I would like to read a good piece with plenty of hard facts linking Obama to Blagojevich, but I haven't been able to find anything. I strongly suspect the president-elect was simply too cool-headed and smart to want anything to do with a smarmy stinker like the governor.

Oh, you may find this amusing. I did.
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Postby Tower_Master » Tue Dec 09, 2008 5:33 pm

fable wrote:I strongly suspect the president-elect was simply too cool-headed and smart to want anything to do with a smarmy stinker like the governor.


One would certainly hope so - it's not as if the "25,000 Club" is breaking news! As a relatively left-leaning fellow, I think Blagojevich's re-election was the first time I've been truly 100% upset at a Democratic "victory". [color="black"](Hilarious cartoon!)[/color]

McBane wrote:While I am not suprised of more corruption in our state government, I am kinda shocked that Gov. B was involved, as corruption charges have been association with him for quite awhile. If you think you're under investigation for this type of behavior, it's beyond reason why you would continue said behavior. I think he's a few fries short of a happy meal. :rolleyes:


It WOULD stand to logic, wouldn't it? Then again, after the (admittedly chargeless) accusations that chased him all throughout his first term and ensuing bid for re-election, a sane man might assume that dear Rod wouldn't have been able to hold on to his office - perhaps the knowledge that he had gotten away with everything short of the kitchen sink and still held on to the Governorship made him feel invincible? :rolleyes: I think this is the first time my staunchly-conservative room mate and I have agreed on a political point...apparently, the apocalypse is nigh!
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Postby rmemmett84 » Tue Dec 09, 2008 5:42 pm

fable wrote:I wouldn't call this "a new low." Senate seats have been given in the past as gifts of gratitude to potential candidates who bowed out of presidential party races. Ambassadorial appointments are regularly given out to the biggest financial donors. (Bush was only notorious in the respect that he gave out top tier ambassadorships to donors, instead of just second tier ones.) There is a lengthy history of such tradeoffs in both parties, which regard themselves as an aristocratic class above the law. It hasn't helped that the Bush administration has covered for so much criminal activity and corruption during its 8 years, nor that Obama and his surrogates have pointedly stated that there will be no criminal investigations. This only fosters the sense that if you occupy a good governmental office, you can get away with nearly anything.


I wondered when some liberal would come in and turn this around to a slam on Bush. :rolleyes: Really give it a rest already...you won...he's leaving office in another month...although you guys will probably be blaming him for things wrong 8yrs from now.
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Postby Lady Dragonfly » Tue Dec 09, 2008 6:36 pm

@fable
LD, I must be missing something, because that ABC piece didn't have one bit of evidence linking Obama to Blagojevich.


We will see. Feds were wiretapping our Governor for months.
I would be surprised if Obama is accused of any wrongdoings though. He was not when Rezko was convicted. As one blogger pointed out,

[color="Wheat"]Should Obama be worried? Not about Rezko. The real estate deal between the two that allowed Obama to purchase his mansion (Rezko bought an adjacent vacant lot saving Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars) and then have Obama do Rezko a favor by purchasing a small strip of that lot for an above market price was borderline legal, certainly unethical, but probably nothing Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would want to drag the next president (or sitting president) into court about.

There are other Rezko-Obama dealings such as Obama’s steering state contracts to Rezko’s businesses in exchange for fundraising assistance and campaign contributions. But that kind of thing is done all the time and you’d probably have to arrest just about every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate if a prosecutor would go after lawmakers who greased the palms of cronies and fundraisers with contracts.[/color]

Indeed. Business as usual.

Oh, you may find this amusing. I did.

So did I. The words "Politician" and "Scumbag" are synonymous regardless of party affiliation.
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Postby Denethorn » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:09 pm

How does this happen in the guiding light of the modern world? You guys are meant to the modern dream perfected and succeeding? :(
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Postby Claudius » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:14 pm

"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."
-- Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the day before he was arrested
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Postby fable » Wed Dec 10, 2008 4:27 pm

Denethorn wrote:How does this happen in the guiding light of the modern world? You guys are meant to the modern dream perfected and succeeding? :(


Hi, Denethorn. Good to see you. :)

But in answer to your question: the idea of the US' perfection is as accurate as that of Britain in the 19th century, the Netherlands in the 16th century, and the Soviet Union in the 1920s. In other words, it's a national myth. And like all national myths, it is dangerous because it allows a lot of nastiness to go unaddressed while people focus instead on distorted achievements.
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Postby VonDondu » Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:29 pm

According to Rassmussen Reports, Rod Blagojevich's approval rating was 4% on October 13, 2008. He was under investigation for months before his arrest. He is also clearly a lunatic, judging by his hopes for his political future and his total inability to understand the kind of trouble he is in. Given all that, I doubt he has many friends who were in on his scheme.

Blagojevich's plan was to use his power to appoint Obama's successor in the Senate as a bargaining tool to obtain highly paid cushy jobs for himself and his wife, or if he didn't get sufficient financial rewards, to appoint himself as the new Senator and position himself for a potential Presidential run in 2016. (As I said, he's a lunatic.) What could President-elect Obama possibly get out of that? Even if you assume that Obama is a corrupt scumbag, I can't think of any reason why Obama would have anything to do with Blagojevich.

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Postby Lady Dragonfly » Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:01 pm

@VonDondu
I certainly agree with your assessment of Blagojevich.
However, a lot of dirt-digging is going on right now and Obama might find it a bit uncomfortable.
Consider this, for example:

The real political trouble for Obama can be read here in a post at “The Smoking Gun” regarding today’s indictment:

” ….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.” (21 pages)”

Aside from Lisa Madigan, Attorney-General of Illinois and daughter of Springfield powerbroker Speaker Michael Madigan, this list is composed of Obama’s Best Friend, Political Godfather, a campaign Mega-Donor and his future White House Chief of Staff. Holy Cats!

I think this is what some folks used to quaintly refer to as “The Sleaze Factor“.
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Postby fable » Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:04 am

Bush came into office hiring a Secretary of Defense who was known at the time to have been the point man providing biological weapons to Iraq for use on Iran. Other, similar Bush appointments were involved in a host of speculative land deals, shoddy equipment provisions to the US military, bribery scandals, slum landlordships, links to mercenary outfits, white supremacist churches, neo-Nazi organizations, etc. Yet it's amazing that nobody pointed at Bush's Sleaze Factor at the time; on the contrary, all the media could focus upon, it seemed, was that he'd won by a landslide, despite having a lower electoral and popular vote than Obama has. (Which I admit, I find grimly amusing. Since Obama certainly didn't have a landslide.) I can't help but think that the problem for Obama isn't any sleaze, since no one has found any attaching to him. Thus far, though, it seems to me a matter of the corporate media trying to give an impression of sleaze, in obedience to their extremely conservative bosses like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

Again, if you have any solid evidence, LD, please bring it forward: I would be most interested in reading it. I still fail to see how this poisons Obama. If a president can hire on the kind of team Bush did and get away with it untarnished, then Obama at worst rates....a cynical smile.

EDIT: As for that reptilian powermonger Rahm, whom I personally loathe, Chicago newspapers are reporting he went to the FBI after someone from Blago's team approached Obama's staff to find out who wanted to buy the Senate job. I don't think Rahm is being a good guy, here. He's just extremely smart. To quote the economics wonk, Ezra Klein:

Blagojevich is legendarily corrupt and known to be under investigation. His willingness to reach out to the White House and try and embroil them suggested a willingness to compromise Obama and his presidency. So Rahm cut him down. It's reminiscent of nothing so much as Tony Soprano killing Christopher Moltisanti when Chris becomes a liability. Rahm may have been a key figured in getting Blagojevich elected, but he's not going to sit and watch Blagojevich compromise the rest of the party. This sort of strategic ruthlessness, incidentally, was the whole argument for hiring Rahm.

I would dearly love to see Rahm take a long, hard fall, but I can't see it happening in this. Please, do find something that will stick to him.

EDIT 2: I just read some of the wiretap transcripts of Blago. This is what transpired on November 11th in conversation with John Harris, concerning the Senate seat:



Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if he appoints Senate Candidate 4 to the Senate seat and, thereafter, it appears that ROD BLAGOJEVICH might get impeached, he could “count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there.” HARRIS said, “you can count on [Senate Candidate 4] to do that.” Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. **** them.”

So, instead of dealing with Blago, Obama and his team backed as far away upwind as they possibly could. And Blago cursed him on tape for not cooperating in his illegal activities. That's not the kind of thing a president elect needs to fear. It's the kind of stuff he would want to quote on his campaign ads for his next White House run. Obama owes Blago a debt of gratitude.
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Postby Moonbiter » Thu Dec 11, 2008 8:24 am

fable wrote: Yet it's amazing that nobody pointed at Bush's Sleaze Factor at the time;


A lot of people did, only not in the US where it counted. Sorry, just my 2 pesos...
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Postby Maharlika » Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:02 pm

[color="Teal"]At least them corrupted fools get charged and arrested, and hopefully get punished for it. In some countries people like them get away with bloody murder all the time... :rolleyes: [/color]
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