Dec 15, 2008
Federal agents arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on a wide array of corruption charges, including putting Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat up for sale to the highest bidder. Other charges include threatening to rescind state funds from businesses that did not fork over huge payoffs. This included threats to rescind a state payment of 8 million dollars to Children’s Memorial Hospital if the CEO failed to organize a 50,000 dollar “contribution” to the governor. He also was charged with pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who tried to expose the corruption.
The tapes of Blagojevich’s phone calls show him using the kind of blatant “strong arm” and “pay for play” tactics that are very common in the politics of the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. If convicted, Blagojevich would be the fourth governor out of the last eight to go to prison. Blagojevich, a Democrat, could become the bunk mate of his Republican predecessor, George Ryan.
The same political machine that produced Blagojevich happens to be connected to President-Elect Barack Obama. And while Obama has so far been able to successfully distance himself from this scandal, he certainly had ties in common with Blagojevich, most notably to Tony Rezko. Rezko was the chief fundraiser for the political campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama, often drawing on the same donors. Rezko also bought the lot next door to the house Obama was buying on the same day and later sold part of it to Obama, something that Obama was forced to admit smelled of sleaze. Last June, Rezko was convicted on corruption charges.
Of course, Chicago and Illinois are not the only places where corruption is commonplace. The relationship between business and politics is so close, it is difficult to know where one ends and the other starts. Businesses get government contracts, tax breaks, subsidies, and in return, the politicians expect to be compensated royally. Corruption is a built-in part of politics under the capitalist system.
The only difference with Blagojevich and Rezko is that they were so crass and blatant, they practically invited indictment.