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“Pay To Play” Is The Chicago Way


The Kool-aid slurping media and bloggers are in full campaign mode trying to spin yesterday’s arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as some sort of exoneration of Teh Precious.  From the NYT:

In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.


Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.

You see, even though both Barack and Michelle Obama are well connected to the Daley Machine in Chicago, they have manged to remain pure and innocent.  Some bloggers have already concluded that any attempt to link Obama to this scandal will be an attempt to smear him by association.  From Digby:

The minute I heard about Fitzgerald’s press conference, I knew this would follow shortly: Questions Arise About the Obama/Blagojevich Relationship
That’s Jake Tapper, not making any charges but bringing up all kinds of cross currents in Illinois politics to suggest that there are “questions.” And all over TV they are talking about “corrupt Chicago politics,” which is being splashed onto Obama.

It’s natural that Obama and many of his staff have crossed paths with the players in this scandal. But according to Lynn Sweet of the Tribune, who has followed Obama for some time and is not a sycophant, says the campaign put a mile between itself and Blagojevich, not even allowing him to speak at the Democratic convention. They are not close.

I don’t know if this will go anywhere. At this point, I think there’s just too much news and too many problems for a phony scandal to have any legs. But, as I wrote almost a year ago, these Chicago shennanigans have elements of a perfect right wing smear by association if they have the energy to launch one and the press decides it’s sexy enough.

Nowhere in her post does Digby allow for the idea that any allegations against Obama might be true, or that he might be involved in any of the corruption for which Chicago is infamous.  In Chicago, the definition of an honest politician is one who stays bought.

Michelle Obama was literally born into machine politics – her father was a ward boss.  She worked for a law firm (with Bernadine Dohrn) that has close ties the Mayor Daley, and then went to work for Mayor Daley.  In 2002 she began working for University of Chicago Hospitals and in May 2005, a few months after Barack was elected to the U.S. Senate, she received a promotion that almost tripled her salary.  She also was appointed to serve as a board member for TreeHouse Foods Inc. (a major Walmart supplier) which paid her another $50,000 a year.  I’m sure her promotion and board appointment had nothing to do with her husband being a Senator.

Barack worked his way up from “community organizer” to State Senator to US Senator in Chicago by making friends with the political machine.  He was not an outsider or a reformer, he was the consummate insider.  Rezko, Wright and Ayers were some of his friends, but his godfather was Emil Jones, the President of the Illinois Senate who bragged that he made Obama a U.S. Senator:

So how has Obama repaid Jones? Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’s Senate district.

Obama supporters have seized on the alleged recorded statements of Governor Blagojevich contained in the indictment as proof that Obama refused to participate in “pay for play.”  But Blago’s brazen behavior suggests that such corruption is commonplace and there is no indication that the Obama transition team reacted with shock or outrage to his demands.

Obama’s refusal to pay the requested bribe in exchange for selecting his replacement in the Senate may have been based on moral principles.  But it could also have been based on concern over the ongoing investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald.  It’s not exactly a secret, Tony Rezko was convicted earlier this year but has not yet been sentenced and rumors have been circulating that he was cooperating in exchange for leniency.

Or maybe Obama was just too cheap to pay up.


The President-elect has not yet been exonerated

According to Peter Flaherty, President of an ethics group, the National Legal and Policy Center, Obama cannot distance himself from Blagojevich. The following is the full text of Flaherty’s statement [emphasis added].

“The Blagojevich arrest is a problem for Barack Obama for two reasons. First, Blagojevich’s bagman Tony Rezko was Obama’s political sponsor.

“Second, Blagojevich’s intercepted comments speak volumes about the way political business is conducted in Illinois. Blagojevich certainly expected Obama to be a willing participant in the dealings over Obama’s Senate seat. Of course, Obama is pleading ignorance, but he is either part of the political culture that produced Blagojevich or he is not. I doubt Rezko had one set of ethical standards when Obama was in the room, and another when he was with Blagojevich. Continue reading

Wednesday: For Sale- Senate Seat, like new, barely used

Kudos to myiq2xu for coming up with that ad copy.

The Governor of Illinois sounds like he’s a bit tetched.  He’s a megalomaniacal, power hungry, corrupt pol in deep, deep denial.  His approval ratings are hovering right down there with George Bush.  And he *knows* he may be recorded when he flat out asks for a quid for his pro quo.   What made him so damn cocky? 

We have learned from years of the Whitewater investigation that where there’s smoke, there isn’t necessarily fire.  It could very well be that Barack Obama had no interactions with his personal Jim McDougal regarding the disposition of his senate seat.  But those of us who witnessed how the primary was stolen from Hillary Clinton already know how corrupt Mr. Obama is.  A man who gets $600,000,000 in campaign contributions, some of them from untraceable pre-paid credit cards and manages to buy superdelegates to flip and whose campaign organization threatens various states to withhold funds from downticket races if their delegates don’t switch sides, has more than enough experience with buying his way to the top. Some stupid Obamaphiles and media types will say that’s just hardball politics and everyone does it.  But when money and favors exchange hands in order to bump someone out of the way and gain you an undeserved advantage is viewed by the skeptical eye of Patrick Fitzgerald, it looks a lot like corruption- and it’s illegal.

Barack Obama is already as corrupt a politician as Rod Blagojevich.  But as to *this* indictment,  this is no failed real estate deal where innocent people are getting caught up in a political vendetta.  This is the selling of a US Senate seat coming on the heals of one of the most brazenly  corrupt primary and general election seasons I have ever seen in my life.  And Patrick Fitzgerald is no Ken Starr but there is a very real possibility that in little more than a month from now, he could be out of work if Barack Obama chooses to replace him.  Now why would he want to do that?

And Rod Blagojevich is a little bid mad, un poco loco en la cabeza, unpredictable and curiously reluctant to step aside during his indictment.  Oh, the things he knows.

So far, the only good that seems to have come out of this is that Jesse Jackson Jr. will probably not be going to the Senate:

Even before Mr. Obama was elected president, Mr. Blagojevich was recorded telling an adviser on Oct. 31 that he was giving greater consideration to one candidate (described only as Senate Candidate 5) after an approach by “an associate” of that candidate who offered to raise $500,000 for Mr. Blagojevich, while another emissary of the Senate hopeful offered to raise $1 million. “We were approached ‘pay to play,’ ” Mr. Blagojevich said on a recording.

But prosecutors, who have made it clear that the investigation is continuing and who issued a plea on Tuesday for people to come forward with information, warned against drawing any conclusions about the true roles of candidates or anyone else in Mr. Blagojevich’s plans. And they emphasized repeatedly that the affidavit made “no allegations against the president-elect whatsoever.”

Several people among the half-dozen whose names have been suggested publicly as Senate possibilities did not respond to requests for interviews. Others, including Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Mr. Jones of the State Senate, who has been one of Mr. Blagojevich’s few allies in Springfield, issued statements expressing shock over the accusations, but they did not answer requests for interviews.

“If these allegations are proved true, I am outraged by the appalling, pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of our state government,” said Mr. Jackson, who had openly expressed interest in Mr. Obama’s old job and who met with Mr. Blagojevich, whom he is not known to be close to, for 90 minutes on Monday afternoon to discuss the post.

Cry me a river, Mr. Jackson:

I guess we should be grateful that he only offered a bribe and didn’t threaten the state of Illinois with making their legislative agenda dead in the water if the governor didn’t appoint his niece.

Still, what goes around comes around.

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

In other news, DeeDee Myers, President Clinton’s former press secretary, is pretty steaming mad over the Favreau picture:

What’s bugging me is his intention. He isn’t putting his hand on her “chest,” as most of the articles and conversations about the picture have euphemistically referred to it. Rather, his hand—cupped just so—is clearly intended to signal that he’s groping her breast. And why? Surely, not to signal he finds her attractive. Au contraire. It’s an act of deliberate humiliation. Of disempowerment. Of denigration.

And it disgusts me.

Oh, I know: If Hillary can get over it, why can’t I? Her spokesman, Phillipe Reinnes, tried to make light of the incident. “Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon’s obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application,” he told the Washington Post in an E-mail. Obviously, she has no interest in making a federal case out of this particular incident, particularly as both the Clinton and Obama camps work on letting bygones be bygones. She has to pick her battles, and for her this ain’t a hill worth dying on.

But there is a larger issue at stake. At what point does sexist behavior get taken seriously? At what point do people get punished in ways that suggest this kind of behavior, this kind of thinking, is unacceptable? At what point do we insist there will be consequences? Clearly, that didn’t happen during the recent presidential campaign, when Hillary was—as I guess she is now—fair game. The press, the pundits, and the public could say things about her (“She’s a shrew!”) and to her (“Iron my shirt!) that were over-the-top sexist—yet got almost no reaction.

Indeed, Ms. Myers, where do we draw the line and hold people accountable?


1. Sign the Pumasphere Petition and Send it to Friends and Family:


2. Send an email to the obama transition team, demanding that Favreau resign!


3. Call Transition Headquarters:

202-540-3000 press option # 2 for a live person