December 9th, 2008
09:20 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Obama's Senate Seat for Sale?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/09/illinois.governor/t1home.gov.blago4.gi.jpg caption="Rod Blagojevich is serving his second term as governor of Illinois."]Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich got a call this morning he'll likely never forget. Robert Grant, the head of the FBI's Chicago office, was on the line. He told Blagojevich there was a warrant for his arrest.

"Is this a joke," the governor replied, according to Grant.

It wasn't a joke.

FBI agents arrested Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris on federal corruption charges.

Here's what has America talking: The governor is accused of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's now-vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

There's also the accusation he was trying to pull back $8 million dollars in state funds for a children's hospital because he never got a $50,000 campaign contribution from the CEO of the hospital.

And, investigators say Blagojevich tried to extort the owners of the Tribune company, which owns The Chicago Tribune, into firing certain editors.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald laid out the government's case at today's news conference. He said investigators bugged the governor's campaign office and placed a tap on his home phone.

Tonight on AC360°, we'll share some of the shocking comments investigators say they caught on tape.

At the microphone today, Fitzgerald wasn't shy about sharing his feelings about the governor.

"Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low," said Fitzgerald.

"The conduct would have made Lincoln roll over in his grave," he added later.

There's one more thing. Blagojevich retains the right to name Obama's successor to the Senate even under indictment.
The only way the decision can be pulled from him is if he quits or is removed from office by impeachment.

Do you think Gov. Blagojevich should still get to name Obama's successor in the Senate?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Join us for more on this breaking story and tonight's other headlines starting at 10pm ET.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Andrew Burton from Kingston Jamaica

    Governor Blagojevich's arrest and the allegations that are being leveled at him reads like the script from a movie. Why am I not surprised? Is it because I have watched movies set in America (most of them if not all) that depicts scenarios like these. Your law enforcers are meticulous and will go after public officials without fear or favour and no one is untouchable when your laws are broken. Admit it though, the governor defines chutzpah. The allegations are damning and if I may, requires cojones de acero to carry out. If they are true, how does one so naive become a governor in the great United States of America? What was he thinking? Is he even American? Does he watch movies made in Hollywood? The people always win. I live in what I've heard described in some of your movies as a "banana republic"(not saying that it is one now though) . Even I know that this is J. Edgar Hoover's FBI in America. This is Abe Lincoln's Illinois. Come on now. Phew! What does this mean for the governorship and the people of Illinois?

    December 9, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  2. melinda

    whats sad is that the majority of politicians are crooked and trying to be too greedy eventually they get caught. Why can't a politician whom we vote for and have faith and trust in use their powers for good things. All politicians are held to a standard and if should be found corrupt they all should pay for their crimes and do the time with out the possibility of payroll or pardon and ban them from gov. jobs.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  3. lorene

    no, he should resign and an election should be held if there is no other person in line that can appoint someone to the seat.
    But what bothered me, is the allegation that obama holds some responsibility for this governor's action. For the governor to do what he did was 'sick' and for anyone to try and connect obama to this is 'sick.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  4. ben

    As an elementary teacher in Illinois, it sure makes studying our state government difficult when it is so corrupt. What message does this send to our youth about those appointed to represent us in our government? It's sad. Thank God former governor Jim Edgar lives in our community and is respected by all.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm |
  5. Bradley -Canada

    It is commonly know that the U.S has the best Senate and House of Representatives that money can buy.

    This story confirms it

    December 9, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
  6. Lee~Illinois

    Its about time old Rod got caught, our community is losing a correctional center at the end of the month(along with jobs, millions of dollars) , as he was ticked at our Senator for voting to impeach/recall him previously...could not have happened to a more deserving man!

    December 9, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  7. Richard -Burnet Texas

    By filing the criminal complaint before Grand Jury investigation, the government now only has 30 days under the Federal Speedy trial act to get an indictment. I think I will wait 30 days to see if the government is ready at this point to indict or if this was just a tactic to get the legislature to take away his power of appointment which it looks like they are going to do by special session.

    I have seen the specific statements on tape. I hear statements made by him as to what he thinks the office of Senator "is worth", but I didn't hear any direct offer to anyone, ie:"You can have this senate seat if you pay me $50,000." There is a big difference between thinking of committing a crime and actually committing a crime.

    I will wait for the evidence to be presented in court, if it ever is, and continue to apply the presumption of innocence until them.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  8. Alex

    Ah yes....it must be the water in Chicago thats makes so many Illinois politicians looks like organzied crimes underbosses. This guy displays much of that same ego and self sanctimonious attitude that so many politicans in general must feel. They look at themselves as being all powerful, immune from criminal prosecution, Yet one can only wonder why some get caught and others get away with it. This idiot at least got original and rather than freezing the cash in the freezer, he decided to try and auction off a Senate seat (say what?). Oh well, I can't wait for the sanity hearing on this clown. I'm sure he's won the hearts and minds of some, but for anyone with any common sense has to believe this guy is off his flippin rocker.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  9. Carol from Illinois

    I just hope that our state legislators start the impeachment process tomorrow! They should call a special session to get the ball rolling.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  10. Nakeia Daniels

    Certainly not. No one as corrupt as him, should play a part in what will be another historic event in our nation's history,

    December 9, 2008 at 10:33 pm |
  11. Marc J. Yacht MD

    If the allegations are correct, it carries Illinois politics to a new low. It adds to concerns that our elected officials are too disconnected from the people they serve and lack the stature and integrity expected of one in high office. If the charges are proven, impeachment and jail should follow, not necessarily in that order.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  12. Jay

    If you lived in Illinois, you wouldn't be surprised by our gov being arrested. Hey! We've been waiting for this for a long time!! He acts like spoiled brat when he doesn't get his way. He only won the second term because of votes from Chicago. Go Feds!!!!!!

    December 9, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  13. john from pa

    the gov. is a nut case and should be thrown out of office.
    when will politicians understand that they are not above the law.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  14. Dr Hank Campbell

    Although retired, I am willing and able to take up the mantle of a senate office. I have $2.63 in change from my evening Wendy's spread. To whom must it be sent?

    December 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  15. Kendrick

    Surely not ! But I have a feeling that there is more corruption involved in this case and more political figures will be indicted.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  16. Pete

    Chicago politics as usual. Obama clearly knew what would happen to his Senate seat.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  17. Gregory Todd from Macon GA.

    No. Nothing surprises me about that State. I wouldn't be surprised if Oboma was in on it either. Considering his ties to ACORN.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  18. Chris

    No! He has obviously shown that his morals are corrupted, and who wants someone to choose someone to hold a legislative position that wont put any consideration towards the importance of the job?

    December 9, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  19. Patrice Palmer

    It seems like the United States of America is for sale, via influence-peddling and rampant corruption. It's not just Senate seats for sale, it's the undue influence of one individual or group over another. This influence also benefits corporations and whole industries, giving them breaks on regulations and policies, instead of protecting the American citizen and our environment. Blagojevich is only the tip of the iceburg. We need wide-ranging reform of elections, political appointments, contracts (including outlawing cost-plus, no-bid contracts), etc. to prevent the type of corruption of which Blagojevich is, allegedly, one prime example. Honestly, I think Lincoln would not be the only one turning over in his grave; so would our Founding Fathers.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  20. Aaron from Westville, Illinois

    Blagojevich has been bankrupting Downstate Illinois for many years, including closing down our beautiful state parks for Chicago's gain. Now that Blagojevich is in the hands of the Feds, perhaps Downstaters can finally breathe at least a little easier.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  21. Dave

    Was not comfortable with Obama's associations before. This governors incident makes it worse no matter whatever he does to distance himself.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  22. Rogie

    Being from Illinois, in the Chicago area, my family and I are not surprised. It was only a matter of time before He got busted for his "Pay-to-Play" politics that have been news worthy in Chicago for years. Good riddance!

    December 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  23. ANUPAM

    This is pretty sad....i dont understand as to why at all he was granted bail for only $ 4500?????

    December 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  24. Robert Mogler

    Most Ilinoisan's have suspected Gov, Blagojevich of bad dealings. Judy Barr Topinka ran against Gov Blag. and she was interviewed quite recently by WGN radio. She commented at the time that if we felt beleived that Gov. George Ryan was crooked, just wait until the investigations of Gov. Blago. are finished.
    With the help of 49 other states, we have smarted up and elected Obama to the Presidency.

    Bob Mogler, Elgin, IL

    December 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  25. Eric

    I would think that it would be strange if Obama didn't have contact with Blagojevich about his successor. I don't imagine Obama would simply abandon his post as Senator without any input.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  26. Sarah, Springfield IL

    I think he should be able to make any important decisions about anything. The people in IL in general don’t approve of the governor or any decisions he makes. I feel that he is an embarrassment to all of us in IL. He doesn’t even live in the governor’s mansion. He uses our tax dollars to fly from Chicago to Springfield.
    He should be impeached. I am outraged by this news, but knowing first hand about him I am sadly not surprised!

    December 9, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  27. Benjamin Turner

    I was wondering why they didn't bust down his door as they usually do when someone brakes the law? Why wasn't he treated like any other criminal? I hope I can receive a phone call before they come to get me. At least they didn't shoot any of his pets (Mr Calvo).

    December 9, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  28. Briana - Chicago

    The arrest of IL Democratic Gov. Blagojevich just disappointed the residents of the great State of Illinois for yet, a second time now. Prior to this, our Republican Gov. Ryan was found guilty of corruption charges and is currently serving out his term in prison. It is now possible for 2 Illinois governors to be in prison, if Blagojevich is found guilty of corruption.

    The voters of the State of Illinois don't hold their heads in the sand; however, as we all know there is corruption lurking in other cities across America. Most voters suspected something was wrong in our state capitol when our Gov. was shunned from the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and has pretty much stayed out of the political limelight for some time now......We just hope our next Governor and US Senator can uphold the oaths of their offices and serve in the best interests of our state and this great country.

    December 9, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  29. Peg from Kansas City

    Do these sound like the actions of a sane human being? Something clearly pulled his mental plug – the question ought to be what!

    December 9, 2008 at 9:43 pm |
  30. Annie Kate

    This governor sounds more like a organized crimes boss than a politician – I can't believe he tried to take back money to build a hospital because he didn't get a campaign contribution! What a petty individual.

    I do not think he should be able to appoint Obama's successor – not while he is under investigation and charged with trying to sell the office. He would probably appoint someone else with the same lack of honesty and morals as himself. Perhaps the Illinois state Congress can have some sort of mini-election in their session and pick a successor then – hopefully that way people with less than savory pasts will have a harder time getting the seat.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    December 9, 2008 at 9:29 pm |