This is one of those moments where I'll probably always remember where I was when I first heard the news. Unfortunately I'll always have to remember Ray Lytle's fat voice as I scanned through my radio for something to listen to on my drive in to work. I was still in my early morning low functioning mental state when I heard that the sitting governor of our state was arrested by federal investigators on widespread and appalling corruption charges. After quickly turning to a more reputable show for confirmation I realized it was no joke. When I heard of some of the accusations, I realized that there was a perfect analogy to a South Park episode (and isn't there always?) I instantly thought of that episode where Cartman is trying to find out who is father is and Dr. Mephesto reads off the long list of possible names. Stan says "I always knew Cartman's mom was a slut but God Damn!"
The national media was reporting that Blago was woken up at 6 am in the Governor's Mansion and told by his security staff that the really real FBI was really really outside and they were really really going to arrest him. (If you can spot the part of that story that HAS to be false than you earn a gold star - HINT HINT he showered, shaved and was in a federal court house in Chicago 45 minutes later). At that point, Blago and his lawyers had to review the 76 page complaint that the Feds have gathered to this point. As expected, Blago was able to post bail. $45,000 bail was ordered and he paid the 10% ($4500.00) and was free to go for the moment. I guess when it comes right down to it you can honestly say that our Governor's best qualities are that he is not a convicted violent offender and is not a flight risk.
At about 11:00 am, 1450 AM went live to the press conference of US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who laid out some of the facts involved. Here's a brief accounting of some of my favorite points. $1.8 billion was contingently apportioned to the Illinois Tollway with the level of funding being reduced if the higher ups at the Tollway couldn't produce enough campaign cash kickbacks for Blago. An $8 million grant to a children's hospital would be pulled off the table if the hospital's CEO couldn't come up with $50,000 in campaign donations. The Chicago Tribune would be blocked from selling the Cubs if they didn't fire editorial writers who wrote stories criticizing King Rod. And of course, trying to either assume Obama's vacated Senate seat or sell it to the highest bidder. Its been very acceptable for average citizens to just say about politicians "they're all corrupt all the time", at least since Nixon. But the specific info thet the feds have apparently gathered is staggering and these sort of things shock even very cynical political observers (yours truly included).
Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of this whole thing is that Blago KNEW he has been under federal surveillance for years. He even had a strong suspicion that his phones were tapped but apparently just kept on "doing his thing". By far my favorite part of Fitzgerald's press conference was when he stated that you'd expect a reasonable person to stop or at least slow down on committing crimes if he's being watched. Something about this whole thing made Blago step up his efforts. Maybe it was arrogance. Maybe it was a last minute money grab knowing he was going down anyway. Maybe it was a borderline mental illness. Maybe he thought he could drag Obama into this with him and therefore have the ultimate cover against a federal sting. Perhaps at some level Blago and his father in law - Democratic kingmaker Dick Mell - were trying to revert back to their Eastern European political roots and a Tony Montana-style body count was about to ensue (okay that's just me trying to be controversial). Nevertheless, the theories will come from all over the map in trying to explain these actions.
But if you're like most Illinois citizens you're just glad we don't have to wait out the last two years of his term before getting rid of him. Pressure is going to come from all angles to get him to step down ASAP. He doesn't have any real ally left in the StateHouse and those that were kindof down with him won't possibly have the balls to back him. And Obama wants this all to go away ASAP. Even though I don't think he'll ever be seriously implicated in this, the whole "Chicago machine politics" being in the news is not good news for him. And if Blago doesn't resign, the Illinois Legislature will impeach quickly. Just like in any other criminal proceeding, denying guilt will come back to haunt the criminal when it comes to sentencing and the Feds have to be communicating that loud and clear to Blago and his lawyers.
The person to really pay attention to in all of this is the prosecutor - Patrick Fitzgerald. He was sent to Chicago specifically to try to tackle political corruption. It's why he wakes up in the morning. It's what he does. It's all he does. He took down George Ryan and he took down Dick Cheney's chief of staff "Scooter" Libby over the Valerie Plame spy deal. There will be no "slap on the wrist" for Blago. P Fitz (he's my boy like that) is going to go after this case like a starving and rabid pit bull on meth would go after a toddler.