This morning’s arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is upending that state’s politics and the process for filling Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. Court documents are also peppered with references to Washington itself, including mentions—not by name—of the president-elect, an Obama adviser, a union official and several Washington “advisers” to the governor.
The implications of all this are not yet clear, but here’s a start.
The criminal complaint against Blagojevich, a Democrat, and his chief of staff, John Harris, was released this morning in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The complaint and an accompanying FBI affidavit (pdf) cite intercepted conversations in accusing the two of conspiring to gain financially in the appointment of Obama’s successor and of trying to get members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board fired.
Blagojevich held several conference calls with Washington advisers, according to the affidavit. On Nov. 7, he, Harris, and “Advisor B, a Washington D.C.-based consultant,” spoke about the Senate vacancy, and the advisor “discussed the prospect of working a three-way deal for the open Senate seat.” The deal, they hoped, would have involved the governor or his wife getting a job with the Change to Win coalition of labor unions.
In a Nov. 10 conference call, Blagojevich and Harris held a two-hour conference call with “various” Washington advisers, including Advisor B, the affidavit says. At one point, the governor expressed frustration that the consultants “are telling him that he has to ‘suck it up’ for two years and do nothing” and appoint Obama’s preferred choice, meaning Blagojevich would not “get anything.”
On Nov. 12, the affidavit says, Blagojevich spoke with a Washington adviser and explained a plan to start a 501(c)(4) organization and then persuade billionaire investor Warren Buffett to fund the nonprofit in part as a landing spot for the governor when he leaves office. “The advisor said he likes the Change to Win idea better, and notes that it is more likely to happen because it is one step removed from the President-elect,” the affidavit says.
The affidavit does not name Advisor B or any of the other Washington advisers.