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.