Friday, December 19, 2008

Blagojevich - Some knew it before term one

My friend, Corinne is a bit exasperated that she is getting calls and letters from out-of-state friends to whom she feels obliged to respond that, though she lives in Illinois, Blagojevich is not her fault. It's not her fault.
But it is the fault of all those who failed to see what seemed so obvious back in 20002 -- that his rhetoric about "reform" and ending "business as usual" was a fraud, a fraud every bit as serious and devious as the allegations in the federal criminal complaint.

If voters didn't quite get that his reform rhetoric in 2002 was fraudulent, they had no excuse not to get it in 2006 when he ran for reelection. By then his penchant for selling seats (they are "f---ing golden") had already been established. In July 2004, the papers revealed that Blagojevich had taken $25,000 checks from two appointees to the state hospital board on the same day -- eighteen days before their appointment.

Unfortunately, this story got its legs broken by the very reporters who told it. The following January, the Governor’s father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, angry with him over a landfill deal, called him out for that and added that he had been “granting plum appointments in exchange for $50,000 campaign contributions.”

From that point forward, the reporters (both Trib and Sun-Times) retold this selling seats story as though it had originated with Mell’s accusation. That turned it into a family feud story and not so much a corruption story.

Most weren’t following this closely. Those happy with the Governor for expanding health insurance for the working poor (albeit without the approval of the legislature) and other labor and human services changes said they were suffering Stockholm Syndrome. Many knew the swirling and growing roster of allegations were true, but none would denounce him because, to them, he was still better than any Republican. And no Dem could touch him because by then Blagojevich had been paid to play in the tens of millions, many of which were in the $25,000 plus amount.

The press may have messed up the selling seats story (did they think the Jerry Springer-like family drama was hotter than fraud?), but the voters didn’t care. Sadly, in both elections, the issue of corruption was so far down on the voters’ priority list that it landed somewhere after highway tolls.

With the national and internation embarrassment Illinois has suffered since the arrest, might these priorities shift -- and even stayed shifted until real reform is achieved?

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