Having seen a number of public corruption charges in my day, this one is an enormous doozy. Pat Fitzgerald’s office will hold a press conference at 11 am CT to discuss the charges and arrest of Blagojevich and his chief of staff.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on the allegations from the 76-page FBI affadavit, via a press release from the USatty’s office in Chicago:
Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009.
Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They were charged in a two-count criminal complaint that was sworn out on Sunday and unsealed today following their arrests…
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:
— a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
— placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
— promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
— a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions,” he added….
That’s pretty ballsy stuff for a governor who knew he was already under intense federal scrutiny — and had known it for some time. There is a lot to this — including allegations regarding a host of other Chicago pols and national names that are hidden behind the usual "candidate x" indictment nomenclature, but whomever the Fundraiser for "Friends of Blagojevich" is, I’d contact an attorney — stat — just based on my quick skim through. Am still reading through legal documents and accompanying materials sent to me via e-mail. More details as I get them…