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Charges lay out years of scheming

Ex-llinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was at Disney World with his family, said he was “saddened and hurt” by the indictment. He was impeached and removed from office after his arrest.

Associated Press

Ex-llinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was at Disney World with his family, said he was “saddened and hurt” by the indictment. He was impeached and removed from office after his arrest.

CHICAGO — Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to auction off President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat marked the culmination of years of scheming for personal gain in what federal prosecutors described Thursday as the "Blagojevich Enterprise."

In a 19-count indictment, prosecutors said the "primary purpose of the Blagojevich Enterprise was to exercise and preserve power over the government of the state of Illinois for the financial and political benefit" of Blagojevich, his family and his friends.

The charges include trying to extort a congressman and pressuring businesses to hire his wife. Five of his closest advisers — including his brother, one of his top fundraisers and two of his former chiefs of staff — were also charged.

The indictment describes the member of Congress as U.S. Congressman A, one of a series of unidentified public officials throughout the document. White House officials confirmed that Rahm Emanuel, a former House member who is President Barack Obama's chief of staff, was Congressman A.

The indictment lays out a broad pattern of corruption spanning from before Blagojevich, a Democrat, was first elected governor in 2002 until the day of his arrest, Dec. 9, prosecutors said. He used his official position, the indictment suggested, to seek financial gain in nearly every element of government work, from picking members of state commissions to signing legislation.

He sought a return on deals to grant money to a hospital, to approve legislation helpful to racetrack owners, to pick a particular candidate to fill the Senate seat and, according to the indictment, from U.S. Congressman A when he pressed for a $2 million grant for a publicly supported school.

He and members of his inner circle plotted to line their pockets with millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, planning to split them after the governor left office, prosecutors said.

Blagojevich, 52, is accused of discussing with aides the possibility of getting a Cabinet post in the new president's administration, substantial fundraising assistance or a high-paying job in exchange for the Senate seat. The indictment does not allege any wrongdoing by Obama or his top aides.

"I'm saddened and hurt but I am not surprised by the indictment," Blagojevich, who was in Walt Disney World with his family, said in a statement. "I am innocent. I now will fight in the courts to clear my name."

The indictment alleges that Blagojevich:

• Told an aide he wanted to stall a $2 million state grant to a school supported by Congressman A until the lawmaker's brother held a fundraiser for the governor.

• Was involved in a corrupt scheme to get a massive kickback in exchange for the refinancing of billions of dollars in state pension funds.

• Told an aide he didn't want executives with two financial institutions getting further state business after he concluded they were not helping his wife get a high-paying job.

• Withheld state aid sought by the Tribune Co. unless the company fired unfriendly editorial writers at the Chicago Tribune.

The charges

Rod Blagojevich: 19 counts of wire fraud, racketeering and extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements in a "pay-to-play" scheme to trade government action for personal and political enrichment beginning in 2002.

John Harris: Blagojevich's chief of staff from late 2005 until December is charged with a single count of wire fraud and is cooperating with authorities.

Alonzo Monk: The longtime friend of Blagojevich's, who managed both his gubernatorial campaigns and was his first chief of staff, faces a single count of wire fraud.

Robert Blagojevich: The ex-governor's brother, who became his campaign finance chairman in August, faces two counts of wire fraud.

Christopher Kelly: The construction company owner and principal fundraiser for Blagojevich faces counts of fraud and extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion.

William F. Cellini Sr.: The longtime Republican fundraiser, who also collected significant funds for Blagojevich, faces the same charges as Kelly.

Reaction

"We can only hope the former governor will not view this indictment as a green light for another publicity tour. Rod Blagojevich deserves his day in court, but the people of Illinois deserve a break."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Charges lay out years of scheming 04/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 11:11pm]

    

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