Archive for Blagojevich

Barack “Little Caesar” Obama

I’ve said repeatedly (and tediously) that there was nothing wrong with then President-elect Obama sticking his nose in the process to appoint his successor. Nothing wrong, and nothing to lie about.

So why did he lie? Why did he out-and-out fib his behind off? (Why does the sun rise?)

Kimberly Strassel supposes:

Among the many accusations against Mr. Blagojevich is that he sought to sell Mr. Obama’s old Senate seat. Mr. Blagojevich appeared particularly interested in naming Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett in return for a cabinet post or a union job.

When the scandal broke after the 2008 election, the incoming administration scrambled to distance itself from its old Chicago crew. Greg Craig, future White House counsel, was tasked with an internal investigation and dutifully reported that “The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat.” Moreover, the president-elect “did not actively seek” to put Mrs. Jarrett in that post. Nothing to see here, folks.

Nothing to see save top union official Tom Balanoff, who last week took the stand in Chicago. Mr. Balanoff testified under oath that the night prior to the election, he was called by Mr. Obama. “Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat,” said the future president. According to Mr. Balanoff’s testimony, Mr. Obama laid out two criteria for who he’d like to see get the post—good for Illinois, electable in 2010—and then noted that Mrs. Jarrett certainly met those two criteria. Mr. Balanoff testified that he then assured Mr. Obama he’d “reach out to Gov. Blagojevich.”

This is a Barack Obama the White House would prefer the public not see. The conversation suggests a president who (like any good Chicago politician) knows the feds have half the city wiretapped, and so resorts to the wink-and-nod tactics of sending an emissary. It suggests a president whose first call on a big political issue was to a union boss. It suggests a president willing to elide the truth in an official report. It may be technically accurate that the president didn’t directly speak to Mr. Blagojevich—and didn’t directly demand Mrs. Jarrett—but that wasn’t really the point, was it?

Maybe I’m being a tad disingenuous in asking this over and over. Of course I know the Obama Dream Factory does not want us to see the seamy side of the His Articulateness, His Cleanliness. Anything to free him from the stench of the Chicago (political) slaughterhouses. And of course I know the press is a complicit co-conspirator.

The White House, trying to tamp down a scandal, has flatly refused to discuss contradictions between the Balanoff testimony and the Craig report. Its bigger concern should be that the trial begins to cast a new and unflattering light on this administration.

Viewed through the Chicago-Blago-Balanoff lens, after all, the White House’s backroom job offers to Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Andrew Romanoff (D., Colo.) suddenly make more sense. So too does the fact that Mr. Obama’s political director was a top Service Employees International Union official, and that SEIU chief Andy Stern practically lived in the White House. The threats against business, the health-care buyoffs, the extralegal actions against BP, and the attempted political assassinations of promising Republicans also come into clearer focus. This isn’t hope and change. It’s how you do business in Chicago.

One remarkable aspect of 2008 is that Mr. Obama emerged from the Chicago machine relatively untainted—the press more than willing to allow him to run from Rezko, his political ties, his years in the state legislature. The Blagojevich trial is a second look. It might not prove so inspiring.

In the words of Blago himself, this story is “[bleeping] golden.”

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Wouldn’t the Truth Have Been Easier?

As well as more… you know, truthful?

Just weeks after President Obama won the 2008 election, the governor of Illinois was charged with trying to sell Obama’s old Senate seat. It was an early challenge for the then president-elect, and he responded in a grand gesture of transparency. He asked Greg Craig, his future White House Counsel, to investigate “any staff contacts or communications” with Governor Rod Blagojevich’s office. Less than two weeks later, Craig released a public report, which purported to remove any lingering doubt about the President’s involvement in the matter. It read in part:

The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

This all seemed rather open and shut. Since the press had no information suggesting otherwise, President Obama was allowed to move on from the scandal. But recent testimony in the Blagojevich trial suggests that Craig’s report and Obama’s effort at transparency failed to tell the entire story.

On Tuesday, an Illinois union leader, Thomas Balanoff, testified that he received a phone call the day before the election from President Obama to discuss Valerie Jarrett and the Senate seat. Balanoff would serve as a go-between, connecting the Obama inner circle to the Blagojevich inner circle.

The Chicago Sun-Time’s excellent “Blago Blog” summarizes Balanoff’s testimony:

Tom, I want to talk to you with regard to the Senate seat,” Obama told him. ?Balanoff said Obama said he had two criteria: someone who was good for the citizens of Illinois and could be elected in 2010. Obama said he wasn’t publicly coming out in support of anyone but he believed Valerie Jarrett would fit the bill. “I would much prefer she (remain in the White House) but she does want to be Senator and she does meet those two criteria,” Balanoff said Obama told him. “I said: ‘thank you, I’m going to reach out to Gov. Blagojevich.”

Three days later, Balanoff testified that he had a meeting with Blagojevich at which he recommended Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat.

We said then and we say now: there was nothing wrong with this. Why shouldn’t Obama at least have an opinion on who got his seat, and why shouldn’t he let that opinion be known? Blago surely wasn’t the kind of politician to collapse under the weight of such expectations; he’d do what he damn well wanted. As a scandal, there was no there there.

So (as we said before, and repeat with greater conviction supplied by greater evidence), why lie about it?

No wonder I’m not in politics—I can’t even surmise a reason to lie. Unless lying is your first instinct (getting warmer, BTL). When presented with a story that you didn’t create, craft, and spin yourself, deny, obfuscate, and spin it anyway—even if it’s harmless and innocuous.

Certainly, President Omoeba has repeated this behavior in his back channel approaches to Sestak and others to abandon their political challenges in return for sinecures in the administration. There’s a little something wrong in that, I believe, and even more wrong with the inevitable denials.

So, all usual sarcasm and snarkiness aside (just this once): why did President Omoeba lie (this time)?

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Warning: Democratic Fundraising May Be Hazardous to Your Health and Welfare

Vince Foster, meet Christopher Kelly (Or do I mean Norman Hsu? Or Marc Rich? Or William Jefferson?):

Over the weekend, Rod Blagojevich’s former chief fundraiser, Christopher Kelly, died after his girlfriend found him over his car wheel in a lumberyard.

Kelly was about to check in to the Graybar Hotel before his death:

Kelly was facing at least eight years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in two separate cases, and he was scheduled to start serving his time on Friday. Kelly was part of the former governor’s inner circle, and as chairman of Blagojevich’s campaign fund, he presided over a political war chest of millions of dollars. But at the time of his death, Kelly had run up thousands of dollars in personal debts was believed to be strapped for cash. He was facing three years in prison for hiding $1.3 million in income, including company money he used to pay gambling debts that he wrote off as business expenses. He was facing five additional years for taking part in an $8.5 million fraud involving roofing work on United Air Lines and American Airlines hangars at O’Hare International Airport. And still to come was a trial in a sweeping indictment that charged Blagojevich, Kelly and four other men with planning several fraudulent deals involving state government and millions of dollars in kickbacks.

Kelly served as part of Blago’s wheeler-dealer Kitchen Cabinet along with convicted fraudster Tony Rezko.

Rezko had loaned money to his business partner and fellow Blago confidante Kelly, who had schemed to evade the IRS by using ill-gotten gains to pay off his massive debts.

Rezko, of course, served as an ardent fund-raiser for Saint Obama and cooked up his sweetheart real estate trade in Chicago, land of coincidences.

And that’s not all. As I recount in Culture of Corruption, now-Attorney General Eric Holder signed up to assist Blago in a casino license battle in 2004. The state’s gaming board had approved the construction of a disputed casino, overruling the recommendation of the board’s staff. Rank-and-file investigators had qualms over the casino developer’s alleged mob ties and over Blago’s appointment of a crony fund-raiser to oversee the state’s deal-making with the casino. The fund-raiser was…

… Christopher Kelly.

Somehow, the foul-smelling case slipped Holder’s mind; he failed to mention it in his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.

That’s Michelle Malkin connecting the dots.

Another perspective:

“We have a sick political culture,” said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, “and that’s the environment that Barack Obama came from. Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.”

Can you blame the guy? Jesse Jackson is from Illinois, and recall what he said about Obama “talking down to black people” (“cut his nuts off”). These Democratic thugs would go further, and stick his severed manhood down his throat.

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Pay-to-Play

This may turn out to be merely a guilty pleasure—with an emphasis on guilty:

A month before his appointment to the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris agonized with the brother of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich about how to raise campaign cash for the governor without creating the perception he was buying his way into Congress, according to a federal wiretap unveiled Tuesday.

Burris said he would make a personal donation but worried that both he and the governor could eventually “catch hell” for any campaign help Burris gave as he lobbied for Blagojevich to choose him.

“And if I do get appointed, that means I bought it.”

“God knows number one, I, I wanna help Rod,” Burris said on the recording. “Number two, I also wanna, you know, hope I get a consideration to get that appointment.”

The entire transcript is here, starting on page 12.

It’s entertaining, sure, but merely an hors d’oeuvre to the anticipated main course of the Rahmbo-Blago transcripts.

Or these transcripts:

blago

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The Little Shaver Gets His Cut

While the sitcom that is Chicago politics continues to generate belly laughs, the spin-off set in Washington is a real downer:

The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Blagojevich’s administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state’s housing authority Sept. 10 — about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Housing Development Authority indicated Wednesday there was nothing improper about Burris II’s employment by the agency, whose mission includes overseeing mortgage programs for low-income home buyers and anti-foreclosure initiatives.

Burris II’s hiring, however, raises more questions about Sen. Burris’ interactions with Blagojevich and his inner circle at a time when the governor was soliciting Sen. Burris for campaign contributions and Burris was angling to have Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat once held by President Obama.

Burris II: The Son Also Slices.

I laughed as loudly as anyone at the pilot episode, but my mirth is passing. Hopes that the stench of sleaze would follow Obama to Washington have not come to pass. We may eventually learn what we already suspect (know, really): namely that Obama, Emanuel, Axelrod, and many more talked plenty to Blago about the senate seat and lied about it. It’s a much simpler explanation than anything they’ve come up with.

But it will be too late. About two or three trillion dollars too late. About socialized medicine too late. About the re-institution of welfare too late. About appeasing Islamic madmen and selling out Israel too late. About silencing dissent too late.

Credit Obama (or his Karl Rove, David Axelrod) for knowing that:

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

They took it at the flood, and the rest of us are drowning.

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The Great Chicago Stinkfest

It used to be the stockyards and the slaughterhouses that stunk to high heaven.

Now it’s City Hall (Okay, techincally, maybe that should read Springfield and the State House—but give me that liberty.):

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.

Burris acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 — three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.

Three weeks after taking office in the US Senate, Burris suddenly discovered that his previous affadavit and testimony were “incomplete”. On January 5th, Burris submitted a sworn statement to the Illinois House panel investigating Blagojevich that he had no contacts at all with the now-removed governor before his appointment in late December. When he testified at the end of January, he amended that to include two other contacts with former Blagojevich aides Lon Monk and John Harris — but he never mentioned Blagojevich’s brother demanding a payment.

There is no possibility that Burris simply “forgot” about such a demand. In the first place, that’s exactly what the House was investigating, a pay-for-play arrangement for the open Senate seat. In fact, one has to question why Burris himself didn’t report such a blatantly corrupt demand to state or federal authorities. He never paid the money, but the demand itself is explicitly illegal, and as a state lawmaker Burris had a higher responsibility than most to report the attempt.

I was all for seating Burris because I thought that would cause maximum embarrassment to Obama. Little did I know he’d be the gift that kept on giving (except for that ten grand Blago was looking for).

Now, I think he should be kicked out for lying to the very Congress he only recently joined. And for the very same reason: crooked politicians associated with Barack Obama can’t get enough publicity. And if they are black, and their persecutors are white, so much the better to embarrass the Democrats.

I would rather Reid and Pelosi were skewered on their merits (or very glaring lack of same), but if I have to settle for racial animosity and rank corruption, I suppose I’ll just have to live with it.

PS: And it looks like Lady Blago has problems of her own.

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Paging Web Hubbell!

Oh man, Chicago is starting to make Arkansas look like Periclean Athens:

The LA Times exposé on [Attorney General Eric] Holder’s role in the FALN pardons will undoubtedly play a central role in the hearings. Democrats screeched about politicization of Justice during Gonzales’ tenure because of the termination of at-will political appointments, but Holder pressured careerists at Justice in 1999 to change their opinions on granting pardons to FALN terrorists. He twisted arms to get Bill Clinton some political cover for clemency, which Clinton thought he needed to get Latino support for Hillary in the 2000 Senate race in New York. That’s real politicization, and it shows Holder as nothing more than a hatchet man.

That same impression will be made when the subject turns to Holder’s aborted partnership with Rod Blagojevich. Holder neglected to mention this on his questionnaire, but he agreed to represent Blagojevich to the Illinois Gaming Board to help push through a casino that Blagojevich and Obama ally Tony Rezko needed for his own financial benefit. The Gaming Board refused to accept Holder, and the Senate Judiciary Committee (or at least the Republican members) will be interested in hearing what exactly Holder intended to do for the corrupt cabal in Illinois.

Perhaps Jim and Susan McDougal are free to pitch in and help out if Web is busy picking up litter along Interstate 55. Vince Foster is, alas, unavailable.

Blago, Ayers, Wright, Rezko, now Holder—and that’s just the starting five, you should see the bench.

Chicago may be known as the Second City, but in terms of corruption it knows no equal.

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Second Class Senator [UPDATED]

What does a black man have to do to get a seat in the US Senate?

Senate Democrats have said they would not seat Burris because he was appointed by Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of scheming to sell the Senate seat.

Burris has maintained that Blagojevich’s problems have nothing to do with him and the appointment is legal.

Nancy Erickson, the secretary of the Senate, rejected his appointment on Monday because Burris’ certificate of appointment was missing the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, an aide to the secretary said.

Rule 2 of the Standing Rules of the Senate states that the secretary of state must sign the certificate of election along with the governor.

Pressed by reporters on what he would do if he is refused admission to the Senate floor, Burris said Monday, “If I am turned away, my lawyers will take it from there, and we’ll see what happens.”

“This is all politics and theater, but I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation,” Burris said.

“We know that under Illinois law and constitutional law that the secretary of state can in no way veto legal action of the governor,” Burris said. “So that signature is only perfunctory and ceremonial to put the seal on it for, you know, recording and filing purposes.”

One possible compromise being considered by some in the Senate Democratic leadership would be allowing Burris to be seated in the Senate so long as he agrees not to run in 2010.

How insulting! I confess I’m enjoying the hell out of this political theater (“Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight!”), but that suggestion is offensive to Burris, to the people of Illinois, to the Senate itself.

Perhaps if Burris had used the back door, this circus could have been avoided. How can the Democrats declare that the seat remain in black hands (as some have), yet not these black hands? If they were capable of feeling the sensation, I’d ask if they have no shame.

UPDATE
This just keeps getting prettier and prettier:

The Congressional Black Caucus must coalesce around Burris. Their response so far has been tepid.

While they have no official sway in the Senate, the CBC imprimatur carries clout. U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush was working the phones this weekend to line up their support. He hopes to make the case Wednesday at the caucus’ first meeting of 2009. He will argue that the Burris appointment was constitutional and legal and that Burris brings “impeccable” credentials.

“There have been three black senators in 150 or so years,” Rush told me Friday. When it comes to playing the race card, no one does it better than the United States, he argues. “The racial deck in America has been stacked against us.”

What self-respecting liberal (an oxymoron, I admit) would deny that truth? And what do they intend to do about it?

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No Blacks Allowed

In Harry Reid’s country club, black people are distinctly unwelcome:

Roland Burris, appointed by Illinois’ controversial governor to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, planned to go to Washington on Monday as top Democrats and Republicans meet to try to work out a bipartisan solution to the Senate dilemma.

Some Senate Democrats say Burris should not be seated because he was appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.

But Burris insists he has the legal right to serve as senator. He told PBS he will appear at the chamber door Tuesday even though he expects to be denied entry.

Senate Democratic leaders have scheduled a meeting with him Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says lawmakers have the legal authority to block Burris’ appointment, but Reid has also left open the possibility that Burris could be seated.

Maybe Reid should delegate to George Wallace. Also a Democrat, he has experience blocking doorways. (If he could stand, that is; if he were alive, that is.)

I love the Democrats. They accuse Republicans of all manner of scandal and malfeasance, but when they don’t like the rules, they are the first to ignore them.

But let’s say Reid has the authority to deny a seat to a duly appointed senator (a black senator, I emphasize). He’ll bounce Burris, but he’ll seat Al Franken? Or Caroline Schlossberg? I say seat ‘em all: the more clowns we can fit inside the Volkswagon, the better. Turn the US Senate into a vaudeville house:

Sen. Kennedy: Welcome to the chamber, Senator Franken. Can I give you a lift home?

Sen. Franken: Why thanks, Ted, but I didn’t bring my scuba gear! Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.

Or:

Sen. Schlossberg: Oh, boy, could you carry my bags to the Senate cloakroom? Here’s five dollars.

Sen. Burris: Sure, sugar tits, if you fetch me some coffee. Here’s two-fifty.

Bada-bing! Bada-boom!

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Impeach Pits

You’ll have to forgive Chicagoans if they’re a little confused about how to deal with corrupt politicians. They usually just re-elect them.

Thank goodness there’s a judiciary that’s done its homework:

With the Illinois Supreme Court rejecting an effort to oust Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a legislative panel considering impeachment prepared to examine whether he abused his power, despite challenges from the Democrat’s lawyer.

The Illinois House impeachment committee faces even more pressure now that the state’s highest court has blocked an attempt to declare the two-term governor unfit to serve because of his legal and political troubles.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan had argued that Blagojevich’s problems amount to a disability, so Blagojevich should have been stripped of his authority temporarily just as if he were physically incapacitated.

The court rejected her challenge without comment. Madigan, a contender for governor in 2010, said she was disappointed by the ruling and urged the impeachment committee to act quickly.

The court’s decision renewed calls from Republicans for a special election to choose Obama’s successor in the Senate. They argue that neither Blagojevich nor Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn _ who would take over if Blagojevich goes _ should be allowed to make the appointment.

There are approved ways of removing a governor, and Illinois will just have to employ them. Trying to garrote him in a dark alley isn’t one of them.

That this will lead to maximum embarrassment for the Democrats—not least the Messiah Elect—is an unexpected, but wholly welcome, benefit.

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The More We Do Each Other, Each Other, Each Other…

The happier we’ll be:

Governor Blago appoints Obama AG nominee Eric Holder to investigate corruption. Holder receives $300,000 for his legal services. Corruption probe finds no wrongdoing.

Holder, however, omitted that event from his 47-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire made public this week — an oversight he plans to correct after a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry, Obama’s transition team indicated late Tuesday.

“Eric Holder has given hundreds of press interviews,” Obama transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement. “He did his best to report them all to the committee, but as he noted in the questionnaire itself, some were undoubtedly missed in the effort to reconstruct a list of them.”

Holder signed the questionnaire on Sunday — five days after Blagojevich’s arrest for allegedly putting Obama’s U.S. Senate seat up for sale. The Judiciary Committee asked him to provide lists and “copies of transcripts or tape recordings of all speeches or talks delivered by you” and “all interviews you have given to newspapers, magazines or other publications.”

Ed Morrissey elaborates:

With all of the attendant publicity, how likely was it that Holder forgot his work with Blagojevich — especially on casino investigations, where one might expect to find a cesspool of corruption?

Not bloody likely. It looks a lot more like Holder wanted to minimize his connections to Blagojevich and hoped people would forget about it.

Could Obama and his apostles have handled this any worse? Hard to see how.

They have taken a situation in which they appear to be blameless—the selling of a Senate seat by a crooked Chicago pol (if that’s not redundant)—and self-inflicted serious, if not yet mortal, wounds, by prevaricating, obfuscating, hedging, twisting, omitting, and stalling. I have no idea what they have to hide, but it had better be worth it.

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Sometimes, the Apple Does Fall Far From the Tree

What do you use to kill a snake but a rat (technically a mongoose, but they’re related…distantly)

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was cited in a criminal complaint against Rod Blagojevich, went to the U.S. Attorney’s office about alleged wrongdoers, including the Illinois governor, a Jackson spokesman said Tuesday.

Jackson rejected being labeled with the term “informant” in a message to CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Spokesman Edmonds described Jackson’s interaction with federal authorities this way: “As a responsible citizen and elected official, Congressman Jackson has in the past provided information to federal authorities regarding his personal knowledge of perceived corruption and governmental misconduct.

“This was completely unrelated to the current investigation regarding the U.S. Senate appointment. And it is absolutely inaccurate to describe the congressman as an informant,” Edmonds said in a written statement.

Okay, how about stoolie? Or tattler? Or squealer? Or backstabber? Or snitch?

But well done, Jesse, if unexpected. So when are you going to, uh, “provide information” about perceived corruption and misconduct a bit closer to home? How do you think daddy makes a living?

Rezko’s singing, Jackson’s squealing, Obama’s schvitzing. Is this a great country, or what?

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