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Blago Doesn't Belong In Prison

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    NEWSLETTERS

    That bluenosed buttinsky, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, thinks trophy convict Rod Blagojevich deserves 15 to 20 years in prison for corrupting Illinois politics.

    Here’s what Fitzgerald’s office had to say in a court filing this morning:

    “In light of Blagojevich’s extensive corruption of high office, the damage he caused to the integrity of Illinois government and the need to deter others from similar acts, the government suggests a sentence of 15 to 20 years imprisonment is sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

    This reminds me a little bit of Chris Rock’s joke about crack destroying the ghetto: “Yeah, like the ghetto was so nice before crack!”

    Yeah, like Illinois politics wasn’t corrupt before Blagojevich was elected. Here’s what I think is an appropriate sentence for Blagojevich: six years, with credit for time served as governor. That would allow Blagojevich to walk out of court a free man, continue his career as a reality TV star/Elvis impersonator, and move his family back into the Northwest Side apartment where he grew up, since they can no longer afford Ravenswood Manor.

    Rod Blagojevich didn’t corrupt the governorship. The governorship corrupted Rod Blagojevich. When four out of eight governors end up in prison, you have to start thinking the problem is with the office itself, not the men who hold it.

    When Blagojevich took office, there were no limits on campaign contributions. In that freewheeling political culture, grabbing as much money as possible was a matter of survival. Blagojevich spent $17 million to win the 2006 election — three times as much as Judy Baar Topinka. Not only did our governors have the motive to sell offices, they had the opportunity. The Illinois Constitution provides for a strong governorship, with the power to appoint boards that spend tax money. Not surprisingly, these appointments often go to big political donors or their friends.

    “One reason that he was able to raise enough money to crush his opposition was that he had so much to sell,” said James L. Merriner, author of a book on George Ryan. “There are so many commissions and pension boards and toll-way authorities and all these administrative agencies that are usually out of public view.”

    By trying to sell President-elect Obama’s Senate seat, and by having great disco hair, Blagojevich created more nationwide embarrassment for Illinois than all of his crooked predecessors combined. As a result, the General Assembly was finally forced to clamp limits on campaign contributions for governor. That was Blagojevich’s greatest service to Illinois: creating a situation which makes future Blagojeviches unlikely.

    I say we let him get started with his ignominious retirement now. Blagojevich pal Stuart Levine has been reduced to hawking electronic cigarettes at a shopping mall. Wouldn’t you rather see Blago doing that than loafing in prison?

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!