Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Illinois Governors

When most Americans think of corrupt State politics they think New Jersey or Louisiana. Both States seem to have a long long history of politicians ending up in prison. Of course the City of Chicago is famous for it's dirty politics--but as anyone from Illinois will tell you--Chicago isn't the whole State. However, Illinois governors have gone a long way in giving the State a corrupt reputation.

A most recent example, former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from the Governor's office in 2009. He had his trial last month, there were 24 charges. The only conviction--a local headline said it best: "Blagojevich Is A Liar". After 14 days of deliberating, the only charge the entire jury agreed on was that he had lied to the FBI. For the rest, one juror-one holdout resulted in what is called a ''hung jury'. That means the jury could not reach an agreement based on the rules for that case. Luckily for Blagojevich, the rules were that the jury had to be unanimous.

Blagojevich is the second consecutive Illinois governor to be convicted for illegal activity while holding office as Governor. If he goes to prison he'll be the fifth Illinois Governor in my lifetime to serve time.

In case you are not familiar with the Blagojevich case (it may not receive the same publicity as it does in the greater Chicago area), he was Governor of Illinois when Barack Obama became President. Obama had been a Senator from Illinois when elected, and when a Senator leaves office before their term is up, the State's governor can appoint someone to complete the term--or serve until a special election is held.

There is evidence that he was trying to 'sell' the Senate appointment to the highest bidder. In fact, fears that such a sale was about to take place prompted his arrest in December of 2008. In recordings of his discussions it seems that was his intent, but it was considered difficult to prove. Other charges are based on his attempts to have editors at the Chicago Tribune newspaper fired for allowing written criticism of his policies. Even worse, there were charges that he was trying to obtain a campaign contribution before releasing State funds for a children's hospital. The whole case against him was based on his demands for something in his pocket any time the State, or he, gave anything out.

Blagojevich is a lawyer himself, and even though there are countless recordings of him making demands, the charges were difficult to prove. He worded things very carefully. Yet his entire defense was along the lines of "he wasn't corrupt, just naive and stupid."

As crazy as it sounded, it seemed to have worked for at least one juror. But prosecutors plan to retry the case. I don't know if a new trial will make a difference. As usual, no matter what, lawyers get richer. Meanwhile, another sleazy politician gives Illinois a bad name. Want to know who will win the Governor's election in the fall? Probably the man most likely to go to prison.

No comments: