Blagojevich Corruption Trial Begins

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich goes on trial this morning, and its a trial that will likely echo all the way from Deaborn Street to Pennsylvania Avenue:

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial will feature prosecutors feeding voters a steady reminder of the worst elements of Illinois’ political culture — allegations that money, insider influence and personal interest drive public policy in this state.

From charges of trying to shake down a children’s hospital for campaign cash to trying to peddle President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat for profit, the case will once again put Illinois politics on trial.

For Democrats, the trial represents a long-feared day of reckoning after 18 months of a Blagojevich-fueled circus. The challenge is to weather months of testimony involving pay-to-play charges as the party tries to maintain its control of state government, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, who replaced Blagojevich as governor after twice serving as his running mate.

“It’s not a plus. It’s not a plus,” acknowledged House Speaker Michael Madigan, the veteran Southwest Side lawmaker who is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.

For Republicans, it’s the down-and-out party’s best chance in a decade to convince voters they deserve another shot at running Illinois. The GOP is trying to regain relevancy that evaporated after a federal corruption investigation that ended with the imprisonment of former Republican Gov. George Ryan.

For the Obama Administration, it means subpoenas and possibly the airing of some dirty laundry:

Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett have received subpoenas from defense lawyers in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, joining a long list of federal officials who could be called to testify in the closely watched trial.

A White House official confirmed that Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, and Jarrett, one of Obama’s senior advisers, received the subpoenas, the existence of which were first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday afternoon.

Blagojevich faces charges ranging from corrupt practices on the state level to trying to sell his power to appoint a successor to then-Sen. Barack Obama when Obama won the presidency in late 2008.

In addition to Emanuel and Jarrett, Blagojevich’s defense team has issued subpoenas to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

This one should be fun to watch.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.