Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was roused from bed and arrested Tuesday after prosecutors said he was caught on wiretaps audaciously scheming to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for cash or a plum job for himself in the new administration.
"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden," the 51-year-old Democrat said of his authority to appoint Obama's replacement, "and I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it."
Prosecutors did not accuse Obama himself of any wrongdoing or even knowing about the matter. The president-elect said: "I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so I was not aware of what was happening."
FBI agents arrested the governor before daybreak at his Chicago home and took him away while his family was still asleep, saying the wiretaps convinced them that Blagojevich's "political corruption crime spree" had to be stopped before it was too late.
"The Senate seat, as recently as days ago, seemed to be on the verge of being auctioned off," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said. "The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."
Federal investigators bugged the governor's campaign offices and tapped his home phone, capturing conversations laced with profanity and tough-guy talk from the governor. Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said even seasoned investigators were stunned by what they heard, particularly since the governor had known for at least three years that he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud and clearly realized agents might be listening in.
The FBI said in court papers that the governor was overheard conspiring to sell the Senate seat for campaign cash or lucrative jobs for himself or his wife, Patti, a real estate agent. He spoke of using the Senate appointment to land a job with a nonprofit foundation or a union-affiliated group, and even held out hope of getting appointed as Obama's secretary of health and human services or an ambassador.
According to court papers, the governor tried to make it known through emissaries, including union officials and fundraisers, that the seat could be had for the right price. Blagojevich allegedly had a salary in mind - $250,000 to $300,000 a year - and also spoke of collecting half-million and million-dollar political contributions.
The governor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. As recently as Monday, he told reporters: "I don't care whether you tape me privately or publicly. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful."
The governor's attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said he didn't know of any immediate plans for the governor to resign. Blagojevich believes he didn't do anything wrong and asks Illinois residents to have faith in him, Sorosky said.
"I suppose we will have to go to trial," Sorosky said.
Gee, do you suppose?!
And it sounds like this is just the tip of the iceberg with this guy. Also kind of interesting that the former Governor of Illinois is also currently in prison. Wow.