On the same day that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich spoke to reporters following the commutation of his prison sentence, current Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker delivered his annual budget address in Springfield.
Now, Pritzker is weighing in on the complicated history between the two men.
During the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, FBI wiretaps surfaced in which Pritzker is heard talking to Blagojevich about a state appointment. Pritzker also appeared on FBI wiretaps discussing possible appointments that Blagojevich was considering for the vacant Senate seat of former President Barack Obama, but had said he was more interested in potentially becoming the state's treasurer at the time.
Now, Pritzker is governor of Illinois, and he says his mission is to root out corruption and to restore public trust in the branches of government in the state.
“This was more than 10 years ago, what you’re talking about,” Pritzker said. “I spend every day trying to focus on trying to root out the corrupt politicians in this state.”
Pritzker cites his administration’s attempts to encourage more transparency on the part of lobbyists as a portion of his efforts to root out corruption in the state.
“We want to make sure we know who the lobbyists are and what influence they’re having on legislators,” Pritzker said during an event at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We’re looking to create a database so people can know and see what that influence is.”
Pritzker criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to commute Blagojevich’s sentence.
“Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption,” he said in a statement. “We must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated.”
Pritzker did say that he has “a lot of sympathy” for the governor’s family, but is more focused now on conducting the state’s business, rather than focusing on what his predecessor is up to.
“We still have politicians who are on the take. We’ve got to get rid of them,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we find them out. We’ve got to make sure they are prosecuted.”
The Illinois legislature is currently considering a wide variety of reforms to help hold elected officials more accountable, but it’s unclear which, if any, will make their way to Pritzker’s desk.