December 9, 2008

Illinois governor's corruption charges touch Obama

Police today arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff on federal corruption charges that both touch the Tribune bankruptcy and the incoming administration of his fellow Illinois Democrat Barack Obama.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the governor and his Chief of Staff John Harris allegedly demanded 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. That takes pettiness to a new level.

Finding a new owner for the ivy-covered baseball temple is in the best interest of all taxpayers. I can't understand why any political leader with an ounce of integrity would want to hinder the sale, even to the extraordinarily obnoxious Mark Cuban. Then I read a little further.

The Tribune reports Blagojevich and Harris have been accused in a "wide-ranging criminal conspiracy" to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for state appointments, state jobs and state contracts.

Finally, Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell his influence in picking Obama's successor. "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." The Associated Press reported that the governor allegedly "took money from at least one individual in connection with naming a successor for the U.S. Senate seat." It does not name the person.

Obama, whose own dealing with Chicago's political establishment hurt him during the campaign, has some explaining to do.

Let this be a cautionary tale. With hundreds and billions of dollars floating around in bailouts and other government financial help, some people are bound to get sticky fingers.

And how is this for irony: Blagojevich was elected in 2002 as the first Democratic governor in 30 years in because voters were tired of the ethics shenanigans of his predecessor Republican George Ryan. The former governor is now in prison on corruption charges.

Source: Blogging Stocks

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