Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

"What Can I Get for This Senate Seat?"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Barack Obama's former senate seat was worth something, and Rod Blagojevich was going to get it.

    That was the testimony today from Blagojevich's former top aide, John Harris, who took the stand for a second day to detail several incriminating conversations he had with his former boss. Harris, who was arrested alongside Blagojevich, made a plea agreement with the government in return for a reduced sentence.

    Among Blagojevich's most outlandish ideas: Harris said during the summer of 2008 Blagojevich was seriously entertaining idea of appointing himself to the Senate seat if Barack Obama won.

    Blagojevich also openly mused about what kind of political favors or money he could receive.

    On secretly recorded tapes Blagojevich says to Harris, "So what do you think I can get for this Senate seat?"

    Harris said he told him: "You can get an ally or you can reward an ally."

    On another occasion Harris said Blagojevich speculated about Blair Hull and JB Pritzker and how much money they might come up with in campaign funds or endowing a foundation which he might later oversee.

    Harris says general counsel William Quinlan told Blagojevich "Governor, you can't even joke about that!"

    Harris also testified about Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel's connection to the Senate vacancy.

    Harris testified that then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel called him two days before the election and said Obama was interested in having a close friend nomination to the Senate. Emanuel didn't mention a name. Harris testified it was clear that Emanuel meant Jarrett, the former chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority who is now President Obama's senior advisor.

    "He wanted to convey to me that (Obama) had a preference," Harris said.