On Wednesday, your Ward Room blogger was invited to discuss the Rod Blagojevich trial on WLS’s Roe and Roeper. At 5:30 p.m.! Drive time! The host, Roe Conn, is a big supporter of Ward Room. Mr. Conn filmed an ad in which he pimps our site while sitting at a bar, riding in a cab, standing in alley, and sitting in a bar again. So I’d been waiting for him to call.
Conn asked me whether I thought that Blagojevich needed to be put in jail to send a message that the public is tired of the corruption in that “cesspool” of Springfield. I came up with a great answer. Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with it until an hour after the show was over. So it’s a good thing I write for this blog.
No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think Blagojevich’s trials are a distraction from the real problems of corruption in Illinois. The political class wants us to believe that Blagojevich was the bad apple in barrel, when really, the entire barrel is rotten. Rod Blagojevich didn’t corrupt Illinois politics. Illinois politics corrupted Rod Blagojevich. When he was governor, there were no limits on campaign contributions. To survive as a politician, he had to raise tens of millions of dollars, and he did so by selling every office at his disposal.
This year, thanks to Blagojevich, a new law went into effect limiting individual campaign contributions to $10,000. Rahm Emanuel has already used his fund-raising genius to find more than one loophole in that law. First, Emanuel’s ex-campaign manager set up a fund of anonymous donors to help him dominate the City Council. Then, he began charging $50,000 a ticket for inaugural sponsorships.
And, as I asked Conn, “Who’s done a better job of enriching himself and putting family members in big government jobs? Rod Blagojevich or Michael Madigan?”
Emanuel and Madigan are just as compromised as Blagojevich, but they’re too smart and too disciplined to get into his kind of trouble. Blagojevich was brought down by envy and vanity. The mayor-elect and the speaker don’t indulge in such emotions. They don’t indulge in any emotions at all, as they methodically amass more money and power than Blagojevich ever achieved.
Blagojevich is not the problem. He’s a symptom. And he’s a useful scapegoat to distract attention from Illinois’s more successful power brokers.
Since Roe Conn had me on his show, here’s a link to his appearance on Wednesday’s Fox Chicago News, in which he argued that Blagojevich should take the stand in his own defense.
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