Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Corruption is still very much alive in America’s midwest

In 2002 Democrat Rod Blagojevich told voters in the American state of Illinois (where the huge city of Chicago is located) that, if elected governor, he would “end business as usual,” the voters knew exactly what he meant.

He was referring to the state’s long history of legislators, judges, congressmen, lawmakers, mayors and former governors haunted by corruption allegations. His predecessor, George Ryan, is currently serving a 6,5 years term in an Illinois state prison for corruption and abuse of power convictions. Three years after being re-elected, Blagojevich is forced to defend himself against charges of corruption and wrongdoing. Just a week after Blagojevich was linked to a scandal involving a teachers’ pension fund, he was arrested last Monday for allegations that he tried to ‘sell Obama’s vacant senate seat’.
Two Chicago television stations, WLS-Tv and WBBM-Tv, as well as The Associated Press announced they have copy’s of transcripts in which the governor is quoted as saying ‘I've got this thing and it's f------ golden and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f------ nothing. I'm not gonna do it." He meant, as the governor who appoints the next senator to replace Barack Obama, it gave him a strong position for negotiations and demands and he expected favours if Obama's team wanted their candidate to be appointed. Basically, it appears that the son of a Serbian steel worker expected a ministerial post, an ambassadorship or chairing a charity funded by Warren Buffet or Bill Gates if he would pick Obama’s favourite candidate to replace the president-elect in the senate, Valerie Jarrett, a long-time friend and confidante of Barack Obama and currently one of his chief advisors.

The Obama Senate seat scheme is only one of the allegations lodged against the two-term governor, whose administration has been under investigation for alleged "pay to play" patronage practices for years. The complaint claims Blagojevich tried to extort the owners of the Tribune company to fire editors at the Chicago Tribune, and to withhold $8 million of state funds to a children's hospital in hopes of extracting a $50,000 campaign contribution from one of its executives. Blagojevich, who came into office in 2002 with promises to clean up the state's culture of graft, made no comment Tuesday during a bail hearing where he was released on his own recognizance. But late in the day his lawyer Sheldon Sorosky told reporters that the governor "is very surprised and certainly feels that he did not do anything wrong...a lot of this is just politics." The investigation is led by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, known nationally for heading the Washington, DC probe into who blew the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Although Obama promised change and 'clean politics', this week illustrates once again that Illinois, and Chicago in particular, is still the heart of America's corruption. Rod Blagojevich will probably just be another name in a long list of politicians, lawmakers and judges who could not keep personal and business interests separated.