Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blagojevich Arrested: Selling Senate Seats is Illegal in America

Illinois's Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested this morning. So was his chief of staff, John Harris. On corruption charges.

For Sale: One Senator's Seat, Used

It sounds like Illinois Governor Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. President-elect Obama doesn't seem to have known about the deal, but that's not what got Rod Blagojevich in trouble. Under American law, Senate seats are not for sale.

Bribery and Corruption in the Governor's Office

This is one of the reasons that I'm very glad to be an American.

That statement's going to take a little explaining. And, it's not political. Yes, Blagojevich is a Democrat. He also voted for using American troops in Iraq, back in 2002. And, he tried to put the fear of Illinois into the heart of a bank yesterday. None of which applies to the Illinois Governor's arrest, and what it says about America.1

America Has "the Worst Form of Government"

I'm with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, when he said, "democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." (The Quotations Page)

I was born during the Truman administration, and have been paying some attention to America as a nation since President Kennedy's time.

Among other things, I've learned that America isn't perfect.

I've also learned that there's no other place on Earth that I'd rather live.

I'm quite certain about the last point: from time to time, I've thought seriously about moving. But, after looking carefully into my options, I've decided that, all things considered, America is the best place for someone like me. Judging from the number of people breaking in, or arriving legally, I'm not the only one.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Corruption, and the Rule of Law

Governor Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, among other things. If the Senate seat deal had gone through, Blagojevich would probably have made quite a bit of money. Besides the prestige and access to interns, there's got to be a lively market for all those government contracts.

The double whammy that Governor Blagojevich ran into is:
  1. American law, custom, and culture frown on public leaders making personal profit from their position2
    • While in office - cashing in with autobiographies and speaking fees afterward is okay
  2. The governors of states are subject to American law, just like everyone else
    • Granted, someone with power and position can get around the law from time to time3 - for a while, at least
The point is that America is a nation of law. We've got problems, and always will: every country has problems, whatever the leaders or apologists say.

But, America deals with problems in a way that's calculated to do the least damage. Governor Blagojevich and chief of staff Harris will go through a process that's designed to sort out truth from irrelevancies and lies. If they broke laws, they will be sanctioned. Maybe not as much as some feel they should be, but that's yet another topic.

If Illinois needs a new governor, the state has procedures for assigning the job to someone else. The transition will, I'm pretty sure, go as smoothly as can be expected when human beings are involved.

Officials Acting Badly: Been There, Done That

America has been through quite a few embarrassments: from the Yazoo land scandal, to the vicuna coat and Pardongate. I don't think that Governor Blagojevich's arrest will strain the system.

America went through Watergate, when we almost ran out of designated replacements for a missing president. The American judicial and legislative system sorted the mess out within the framework of our laws. I don't think that an excessively entrepreneurial governor will strain the system.

In fact, we may come out of this Illinois imbroglio with ideas for improving how America handles politicos who don't play by the rules.

In the news:

Update - 1:13 p.m. Central, December 9. 2008)

Since starting this post, I saw a press conference with an FBI representative. A few points stood out.
  • Governor Blagojevich is actually in custody - FBI agents picked him up at his house this morning, at about 6:00 a.m.
  • Blagojevich's wife and kids weren't aware that the agents were there - until the arrest had been made
I was impressed: apparently the FBI officials gave Governor Blagojevich an opportunity to come quietly, without a crowd of reporters and photographers - and without disturbing his family. It seems that Blagojevich's wife and two daughters found out what was going on as Blagojevich was leaving with the agents: but the transition was probably a lot less stressful than it could have been.
1He's Serbian, too: but I don't see his arrest as a matter of Serbian rights.

2 While it's quite legal for cities, counties, and states, to demand money from individuals and businesses for the right to own property or do business and get regulated, individual politicians and government employees are not supposed to add their own surcharge for services.

3 People at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum can benefit from their position, too, I think. There's something to be said for being 'under the radar.' But, that's getting 'way off topic.


Midwest Mom said...

As someone who lives downstate, I would say that the bloom has been off the rose of the Blagojevich administration for some time now. There was hope, when he came into office, that he would represent a departure from Gov. Ryan (who, you may know, was tried and convicted of corruption and is now in federal prison). Sadly, the State of Illinois seems to be a two-time loser.

Illinoisans will be watching carefully, I think, to ensure that this doesn't happen a third time.

Fool us twice, shame on us, right?

Anonymous said...

It's a sad situation when a person in power elected by the people is shown to be curropt. Blago maybe corrupt, but not obama. Obama did it for us! There is a bailout for the people. Everyone qualifies. I got $750,000.00USD in grants for my bailout.

Claim your free Bailout Grant

Brian H. Gill said...


There's no indication that President-elect Obama had anything to do with Blagojevich's activities - apart from having been elected to the Senate in Illinois before winning the presidential election.

The FBI and news services have been quite clear on that point.

Brian H. Gill said...


I've got a policy against spam comments, but your reference to Obama is on-topic.

Brian H. Gill said...

Midwest Mom,

The Illinois governors aren't establishing the sort of tradition a state wants: that's sure.

I won't comment of the 'fool us twice' statement. Minnesota has its problems, too: which is one reason that I do research before elections. Entirely too many news services print all the news they feel like printing.

On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune seems to have been responsible in one aspect of this case.

That's another topic.

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