Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rod Blagojevich Presents His Case, and His Autobiography

Rod Blagojevich. The Governor: Finally, the Truth Behind the Political Scandal That Continues to Rock the Nation. Beverly Hills, Ca.: Phoenix Books, 2009.

Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on December 9, 2008. He had no expectation it would happen. He was considering filling the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Barack Obama to become President. The FBI showed up at 6 am at his house announcing he as being arrested. His first thought was that it was a joke. He learned his phone had been taped. He believes the tapes dared the FBI to arrest him but the full tapes show the truth.

After being elected Governor in 2002, the Blagojevichs decided to continue living in their private house rather than the Governor’s Mansion. They wanted their children to have as normal lives as possible.

Blaojevich marred Patty, whose father Richard Mell, was a Chicago Democratic ward boss. His state legislator suddenly moved out of his ward. Mell quickly needed a candidate and asked Blagojevich to rum. Blagojevich asked for the freedom to take his own position of issues, to which Mell replied he didn’t care about issues. Blagojevich put all of $25,000 he had into the race. His in-laws matches it will a loan that he repaid. He defeated a candidate from U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski’s ward in the primary, winning 61% of the vote.

Blagojevich served two terms in the State House. Speaker Mike Madison’s office asked him to introduce a bill to increase the fees for firearms owner IDs. In retrospect, he thinks the bill “was stupid”. Yet he argued for it against much protest. His cause was crushed by gun owners.

Blagojevich observed that Speaker Madison ran things without challenge. He determined which bills ran, he raised the campaign funds for most of the Democratic representatives, he made all the committee appointments, and the members gave him blind loyalty. Most legislators spent their tine drinking and partying.

Blagojevich decided to run for Congress in 1996 against Republican incumbent Michael Flanagan. Flanagan two years earlier had defeated Rostenkowski who when then under investigation and later would be indicted. Mayor Daley endorsed Blagojevich in a race where his principal opponent was State Rep. Nancy Kaszak, who was supported by Emily’s Life, a major fund raising organization for female candidates. Blagojevich received 50% to 38% for Kaszak.

David Axelrod was Blagojevich’s media consultant. He would later become a key Obama advisor. Tony Rezko was a key contributor. He would later be involved in political scandal over his contributions to politicians and his business connections.

Blagojevich was the only Serbian-American member of Congress. He opposed NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia. Milosovic began ethnic cleansing, something Blagojevich feared would that his reaction to an attack would be to engage in brutality. Blagojevich believes NATO wanted to force Milosevic to so act in order to allow NATO to respond with more force. Blagojevich believes thousands died as pawns in geopolitics maneuverings. Blagojevich used his Serbian connections to arrange a meeting between Milosevic and a delegation that included Blagojevich and Re. Jesse Jackson. They discussed the release of captured American soldiers. They traveled inside a war zone where he could look out his window and see bombs dropped. Blagojevich met with the soldiers. They met with Milsevic who agreed to release the soldiers.

Blagojevich ran for Governor. Early polling had him running third in the primary. Blagojevich knew his opponents were strong in Chicago and the suburbs so he sought to win most of the downstate vote. He received over half the downstate vote and won the primary with 36% to 34% for Paul Vallas, former Chicago School CEO and 30% for former State Comptroller Roland Burris.

As Governor, Blagojevich helped extend healthcare to a million people. Illinois provided mammograms and pap smears to those without health insurance. All children were covered by the All Kids health insurance. He got these enacted over the objections of Speaker Madigan. His daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, then unsuccessfully sued to stop these programs. Blagojevich believes the Madigans opposed him because he turned down their request to contribute $400,000 to them. They threatened to make things difficult for him if he didn’t contribute. He refused.

Blagojevich feels betrayed by his father in law, Richard Mell, whose landfill business become embroiled in controversies over environmental regulations. Blagojevich sided with his state regulators and shut his father in law’s landfill down. Mell flew into a rage, turned on Blagojevich, and his rival Attorney General Madigan seized upon this and began an investigation on Mell’s allegations against Blagojevich. Mell retracted his accusations but an investigation was underway. Attorney General Madigan opened a grand jury on Blagojevich for closing the landfill. The court found the landfill operated improperly without correct permits and deserved to be closed until it cleared up material it had that it was not allowed to have.

Blagojevich notes he avoided the scandals that previous Governor George Ryan faced over awarding contracts. Blagojevich established procedures to avoid these problems.

Blagojevich admits he thought Tony Rezko was a friend he could trust. He believes he would not have been in trouble had Rezko never been a friend.

Blagojevich decided to appoint Attorney General Madigan to the U.S. Senate vacancy if House Speaker Madigan would remove a block he had on public works legislation which Blagojevich wanted passed. Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzpatrick considered this an illegal deal and indicted Blagojevich.

Atty. Gen. Madigan sued to declare Blagojevich incapacitated and removed as Governor. Blagojevich believes Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was then was going to appoint Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate. The Illinois Supreme Court threw out Madigan’s lawsuit.
Every Democratic U.S. Senator signed a letter stating they would refuse to allow any Senator appointed by Blagojevich to take office. The legislature meanwhile began hearings on whether to impeach Blagojevich.

Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the Senate vacancy. Blagojevich saw it as his Constitutional duty to make an appointment. The Senate did not object after all and Burris was seated.

The State House impeached Burris without proving any crime, according to Blagojevich. He then refused to attend the Senate trail as he did not see the trial as proper.

Blagojevich was impeached by the legislature. He states he was not permitted to present his evidence. There are tape recordings indicating he was offering the Senate appointment as part of an illegal deal. Blagojevich claims he will be cleared if the full tapes are played. He states some of the Senators did not want the full tapes played because it would have embarrassed them.


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