FBI: Blago Trying to Sell PEBO’s Senate Seat

Dec 9, 2008 11:47am

FBI agents this morning arrested Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris on federal corruption charges.

From the complaint we have some details. Most intriguing, perhaps, those involving Blago seemingly trying to sell off President-elect Obama’s Senate seat. (Read the complaint HERE and the press release HERE.) 

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick "The Untouchable" Fitzgerald in a statement. “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."

Says the complaint: "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 Senate candidate whom Blago at one point thought that President-elect Obama seemed most likely to be supporting — friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett, who later took herself out of the running and will be a White House Senior Adviser — is discussed, as "Senate Candidate 1."

Jarrett referred ABC News to the Obama Transition Team for comment; they did not have one.

Ultimately, it appears that neither PEBO nor Jarrett were willing to discuss any of Blago’s various notions of how he could sell them the seat. Talking to his chief of staff on November 11, Blago said he knew PEBO wanted Jarrett to get the Senate seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F— them."

At one point, discussing what he could get from PEBO for the Senate seat, Blago said his general counsel believes that PEBO could get Blago’s wife on paid corporate boards "in exchange for naming the President-elect’s pick to the Senate."

The general Counsel asked, “can [the President-elect] help in the private sector… where it wouldn’t be tied to him?… I mean, so it wouldn’t necessarily look like one for the other.”

Blago says consultants are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherf—-r [the President-elect] his senator. F— him. For nothing? F— him.”

He adds he will give "Senate Candidate 4" (a deputy Governor) the Seat “before I just give f—ing" Jarrett the "f—ing Senate seat and I don’t get anything.”

According to the complaint, Blago "stated that absent getting something back" he would not pick Jarrett. Harris re-stated Blago’s thoughts "that they should ask the President-elect for something for (Blago’s) financial security as well as maintain his political viability." Harris says "they could work out a three-way deal with SEIU and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect" so that Jarrett got the Senate seat and Blagojevich "would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign, and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future."

Blagojevich met with an official of the SEIU to discuss the Senate seat, "with the understanding that the union official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1′s interest in the Senate seat.  During the November 12 conversation, Blagojevich allegedly explained the non-profit organization idea" — the notion that the governor wanted to run a union-affiliated a 501(c)(4) non-profit group — "to SEIU Official and said that it could help Senate Candidate 1. The union official agreed to ‘put that flag up and see where it goes,’ although the official also had said he wasn’t certain if Senate Candidate 1 wanted the official to keep pushing her candidacy. Senate Candidate 1 eventually removed herself from consideration for the open seat."

It’s not clear from the complaint how much this was directly presented as a quid pro quo, how serious the SEIU official was about pursuing it, and how much Jarrett knew about the conversation.

Last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might “get some (money) up front, maybe” from a person the Feds are calling "Senate Candidate 5," if Blago named "Senate Candidate 5" to the Senate seat.

Blago said an associate of Senate Candidate 5 said he "would raise a million, if I made him a Senator.”

Almost unbelievably, Blago allegedly spent a significant amount of time considering the prospect of appointing himself to the open Senate seat.

Why would he do so?

According to the complaint, Blago thought:

* being Senator would help him avoid impeachment by the Illinois legislature;
* he’d be able to better make corporate contacts that would prove lucrative after leaving public office;
* it would aid his wife’s job as lobbyist;
* better speaking fees;
* he was frustrated at being “stuck” as governor;
* he thought he’d be able to garner greater resources if indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting Governor; and
* he wanted to remake his image in consideration of — wait for it — a possible run for President in 2016.

On Nov. 3, the Democrat told "Advisor A," Blagojevich said:  “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

On November 5, Blagojevich said to Advisor A, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing.  I’m not gonna do it.  And, and I can always use it.  I can parachute me there."

Blago tells Harris that his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria (in this order of importance): “our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation.  This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that.  Legal.  Personal.  Political.”

When Senate Candidate 5′s prospects improved, Blago told "Fundraiser A" to tell "Individual D" that if Senate Candidate 5 were going to be chosen, “some of this stuff’s gotta start happening now… right now… and we gotta see it.” 

The ever-cautious Blago continued, “You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody’s listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?”

Yep, I do. We all do.

– jpt

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