Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Who Got a Rawer Deal, Rod Blagojevich or Jesse Jackson Jr.?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich works his way through a crowd of reporters as he leaves his Ravenswood Manor home for a federal prison. (Published Thursday, Mar 15, 2012)

    Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported to the Englewood Federal Correctional Center in Colorado exactly one year ago today. According to Ward Room’s famous Blago Countdown Clock, which calculates that the governor will be released from prison on May 23, 2024, Blagojevich has 4,086 days left to serve in his sentence.

    To determine whether he received a fair punishment, let’s do some math and compare Blagojevich’s sentence to the sentence former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is likely to receive, on a dollars stolen-for-dollars stolen basis.

    "The Hardest Thing I've Ever Had to Do": Blago

    [CHI] "The Hardest Thing I've Ever Had to Do": Blago
    Rod Blagojevich gets choked up as he talks to NBCChicago's Phil Rogers at Freddy's in Colorado before the former governor entered prison. Blagojevich talks about being on the phone with his daughter and trying to stay strong. (Published Thursday, Mar 15, 2012)

    Junior embezzled $750,000 from his campaign funds, money he used to buy watches, jewelry, fur coats and Bruce Lee memorabilia, as well as pay for personal expenses such as dry cleaning. He is expected to receive a sentence of between 46 and 57 months. Even if he receives the maximum, he’ll serve one month for every $13,157.89 he stole. Or $433.52 a day, if you prefer to calculate it that way.

    As for Blagojevich, he stole -- well, he didn’t actually steal any money. Junior offered to raise $5 million for Blago in exchange for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, but that was in campaign cash.

    Blago Signs Autographs at O'Hare

    [CHI] Blago Signs Autographs at O'Hare
    Before boarding a plane at O'Hare Airport to federal prison in Colorado, Rod Blagojevich stopped to shake hands and sign autographs before entering security. He'll serve a 14-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Englewood. (Published Thursday, Mar 22, 2012)

    There was no evidence that Blago planned to spend the money on, say, a football signed by all the living ex-presidents. Although he could have used it. The vain governor and his first lady had spent $400,000 on clothes during his six years in office. As a result of such profligacy, their house was falling apart from disrepair. As the Tribune’s Mary Schmich wrote, “The roof needed repairs. The paint on the windowsills was cracked. The lawn was tired.”

    So how much would Blagojevich have had to steal to make his 14-year-sentence worth it? Using the Jackson standard of $13,157.89 a month, the answer is $2,210,525.52. So, if Jackson had actually raised $5 million, Blago should have kept just under half.
    Instead, Blago got 14 years just for talking about raising $5 million. I’m not sure what the going rate is for that.

     

    This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.