He didn’t build many bridges while in office, but Rod Blagojevich sure burned a few. That’s why, aside from his devoted wife Patti, few have spoken in support for an early release for the twice-elected former Illinois Governor.
Audio tapes played at his trial showed Blagojevich believed he had something “golden” in the US Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama and he wanted to be paid for it. Conspiring to “sell” the seat, along with lying to the FBI, bought Blago 14 years in the federal pen.
The current President of the United States today initiated a discussion of whether Blago has suffered enough, while misstating the number years in the prison sentence.
“Because what he did does not justify 18 years in a jail. If you read his statement, it was a foolish statement. There was a lot of bravado … Plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse,” he said. “And it doesn’t, he shouldn’t have been put in jail.”
Fortunately, former Statehouse reporter Don Sevener recently posted to his blog a mini-refresher course on the Blagojevich years, which reminds us that much, though certainly not all, of the blame for Illinois’ current fiscal mess belongs to Blago.
The governor had a billion-dollar appetite for new spending but a budget insufficient to feed it. Unwilling to raise taxes to support his hunger, he took pension “holidays” — i.e. robbing the state’s retirement systems — to pay for populist (and sometimes popular) new programs and initiatives that the state could not afford. He wasn’t the first or only governor to use the tactic, but he was the most extravagant.
In office barely two months, Blagojevich demanded higher education institutions return what amounted to a quarter of their state appropriation. He then cut higher education budgets — shortchanging students who faced higher tuition and seeding the demise of a higher education system that once ranked among the elite of the nation.
Let’s also remember that the evidence that gave Blagojevich a place of honor in the team photo of corrupt Illinois politicians included a scheme in which the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital saw $8 million in promised state health care funding withheld from his facility.
Mr. Blagojevich on Oct. 8 discussed with one of his campaign fundraisers pressing the executive — named in the criminal complaint as “Hospital Executive 1” — for a $50,000 campaign contribution, allegedly a quid pro quo for the governor’s recent funding commitment, according to the affidavit.
“I’m going to do $8 million for them. I want to get (Hospital Executive 1) for 50,” Mr. Blagojevich told the fundraiser, according to the 78-page affidavit.
Mr. Blagojevich had a conversation with a deputy governor about the status of the funding, as described in the affidavit: “The pediatric doctors — the reimbursement. Has that gone out yet, or is that still on hold?” Mr. Blagojevich asked.
“It’s January 1,” a deputy governor responded.
“And we have total discretion over it?” he asked.
“Yep,” a deputy governor replied.
“We could pull it back if we need to – budgetary concerns – right?”
A deputy replied “yep,” to which the governor said: “That’s good to know,” according to the affidavit.
Again, we’re talking about a hospital that treats sick children. They never did get the money.
Why would this President consider
a pardon commuting the sentence for a not too bright, but extremely greedy, selfish jerk, lacking any principles, who screwed over the people who put him in office and cared only about himself and his immediate family?
Let’s just say Donald Trump understands Rod Blagojevich.
Should he decide to spring the former governor, perhaps the President could help Blagojevich get back on his feet by giving him a job in his administration.
As bad as he is, Blagojevich has more experience in government than most Trump cabinet members.
And as for the moral impact on this Administration, it’s a wash.
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CapitolFax: Blagojevich again attempts to rewrite history
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VIDEO: A man who never takes responsibility tries to get Rod Blagojevich to take responsibility.