Illinois governor ignores Obama's call to resign

A newspaper vendor holds up a paper that reads “A political crime spree” on the street outside of the office of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday in Chicago.

Getty Images

A newspaper vendor holds up a paper that reads “A political crime spree” on the street outside of the office of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday in Chicago.

CHICAGO — His career in shreds, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich clung defiantly to power Wednesday, ignoring a call to step down from President-elect Obama and a warning that Senate Democrats will not let him appoint a new senator from the state.

"Everyone is calling for his head," said Barbara Flynn Currie, a leader in the Illinois Senate and, like the governor, a Democrat.

One day after the arrest of Blagojevich (pronounced bluh-GOY-uh-vich), fellow Illinois politicians sought to avoid the taint of scandal-by-association.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said at a news conference in Washington that he was Senate Candidate 5 in the government's criminal complaint — a man who, according to secretly recorded conversations, Blagojevich said might be willing to pay money to gain appointment to Obama's vacant Senate seat. Jackson said he was assured by prosecutors that he is not a target of the investigation, and he emphatically denied engaging "whatsoever in any wrongdoing."

Other Democrats in Washington edged away from calls for a special election to fill Obama's place in the Senate, hoping that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn will soon become governor and fill the vacancy on his own.

Ensconced in his downtown office, Blagojevich gave no sign that he was contemplating resigning, and he dispatched his spokeswoman, Kelley Quinn, to say it was "business as usual" in his 16th-floor suite, a few blocks from Obama's transition headquarters.

A day earlier, federal prosecutors released a thick document that included excerpts of wiretapped conversations in which, they say, the governor schemed to enrich himself by offering to sell Obama's Senate seat for campaign cash or a lucrative job inside or outside government.

Blagojevich, whose 52nd birthday was Wednesday, is charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit bribery, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and 10 years, respectively.

On Wednesday, Obama joined other prominent Democrats from his state in calling for Blagojevich's resignation.

"The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn and many others that, under the current circumstances, it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said in response to questions from the Associated Press.

Top Senate Democrats made their opinion clear in a letter circulated among the rank and file for signatures. Blagojevich's resignation, followed by an appointment made by a new governor, would "be the most expeditious way for a new senator to be chosen and seated in a manner that would earn the confidence of the people of Illinois and all Americans," wrote Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois.

The anger toward Blagojevich came amid more fallout over the scandal and new details about the case.

One of his top deputies, Bob Greenlee, resigned without announcing why. Greenlee, 33, had been promoted to be a top aide to Blagojevich in June, earning $149,000 a year. Two deputy governors are listed in the criminal complaint, one as a potential Senate candidate to replace Obama and another as a Blagojevich lieutenant who was deeply involved in an alleged scheme to strong-arm the Chicago Tribune into firing some of its editorial writers critical of Blagojevich.

Neither deputy governor was identified by name in the complaint.

Tribune CEO says FBI contacted him

Tribune Co. chairman and CEO Sam Zell acknowledged Wednesday that he has been contacted by the FBI in connection with the corruption investigation involving Blagojevich, but he declined to discuss the case in any detail.

Zell, referred to indirectly as "Tribune Owner" in federal authorities' complaint Tuesday against the Illinois governor, indicated he didn't know whether the Tribune Co. was pressured by Blagojevich and his chief of staff to force the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial writers. In the end, none of the writers were fired.

"I'm not personally familiar with any of that, and considering the fact that this is an ongoing criminal investigation, I would feel reticent to comment accordingly," he told CNBC.

Zell declined a Wednesday interview request from the Associated Press through spokeswoman Terry Holt.

On eBay: Senate seat, slightly worn

For sale: One Senate seat. Goes to the highest BLEEP-ing bidder. Seller's positive feedback rating: since Tuesday, just about zero.

Outraged by the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, more than a dozen people have put the state's vacant Senate seat up for bid on eBay.

Daniel Finnegan, a student at the University of Georgia, said he started an auction because he's "extremely upset about what happened" and wants to voice his opinion. Finnegan said he's glad others posted similar auctions so the accusations against Blagojevich don't go unnoticed.

University of Illinois student Matt Platino said he posted his entry to be funny, but also because he's upset with Blagojevich.

At least one seller carefully noted the ad was "not an offer for actual US Senate seat. … For entertainment purposes only."

And folks are bidding, some jokingly. One posting ("Used Illinois Senate seat, all wood and leather, willing to deal on this one! Please be advised I will be away from my office for a while..."), had 78 bids and was going for $99,999,999.00 Wednesday morning.

Associated Press

On eBay: Senate seat, slightly worn

For sale: One Senate seat. Goes to the highest BLEEP-ing bidder. Seller's positive feedback rating: since Tuesday, just about zero.

Outraged by the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, more than a dozen people have put the state's vacant Senate seat up for bid on eBay. Daniel Finnegan, a student at the University of Georgia, said he started an auction because he's "extremely upset about what happened" and wants to voice his opinion. Finnegan said he is glad that others have posted similar auctions so that the accusations against Blagojevich don't go unnoticed. University of Illinois student Matt Platino said he posted his entry to be funny — but also because he's upset with Blagojevich. At least one seller carefully noted that the ad was "not an offer for actual US Senate seat. … For entertainment purposes only." And folks are bidding, some jokingly. One posting ("Used Illinois Senate seat, all wood and leather, willing to deal on this one! Please be advised I will be away from my office for a while …") had 78 bids and was going for $99,999,999.00 Wednesday morning.

Associated Press

Illinois governor ignores Obama's call to resign 12/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 11:48am]

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...