Blagojevich case is part of feds’ focus on graft
The FBI is probing some 2,500 public corruption cases – a 50 percent jump since 2003.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is just the latest in a recent string of high-profile political officials accused or convicted by the federal government of mystifyingly blatant public corruption.Skip to next paragraph
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From Sen. Ted Stevens (R) of Alaska, convicted in October of hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations given to him by a political supporter, to Rep. William Jefferson (D) of Louisiana, who faces a trial on bribery charges next year following the FBI’s discovery of $90,000 in his freezer, the list of tainted politicians is long and colorful.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in recent years has redoubled its efforts to root out public misconduct, accounting for some of the apparent trend. But in general, the catching of multiple hands in multiple cookie jars is a reminder that corruption has no party, temptation is constant, and “constant vigilance” is a good mantra for voters to keep in mind.
Governor Blagojevich returned to work Wednesday, a day after his arrest on charges that included scheming to enrich himself by selling President-elect Obama’s former Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Meanwhile, Senate majority whip Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois called on the Illinois legislature to immediately pass legislation that would require the seat to be filled in a special election, instead of by gubernatorial appointment.
State lawmakers indicated they could move swiftly to draft and pass such legislation.
“No appointment by this governor, under these circumstances, could produce a credible replacement,” said Senator Durbin on Dec. 9.
The profane, crass nature of Blagojevich’s comments, as alleged by federal prosecutors in an indictment, stunned even longtime political observers in Washington.
Discussing his power to appoint a replacement to Mr. Obama’s old seat, Blagojevich said, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden,” prosecutors alleged.
“It came as a shock,” says Mr. Edgar, who served 12 years in the House as a Democratic lawmaker from Pennsylvania. “It’s appalling.”
The case against the Illinois governor is being directed by Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for Northern Illinois. Mr. Fitzgerald has been particularly active in attacking state political corruption. He directed the successful prosecution of Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan, for steering state contracts to political cronies, among other cases.