December 10th, 2008
10:48 AM ET

Senate seat for sale

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Editor’s Note: Leslie Sanchez is a former adviser to President Bush and CEO of Impacto Group, which specializes in market research about women and Hispanics for its corporate and nonprofit clients.

Leslie Sanchez | Bio
CNN Political Contributor
Republican Strategist

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich poses the first real political challenge for the nascent Obama Administration. Not only is it a supersized embarrassment, but it is the kind of unexpected development that all presidents have to deal with that’s beyond their control.

No one has yet suggested credibly that the President-elect is involved. But the emerging scandal, involving as it does the infamous Chicago political machine from which Obama and several of his closest advisors spring, presents the first real opportunity for the new administration to show the days of business as usual in Washington are, in fact, over.

Throughout the election, Obama sidestepped accusations about ties to that machine, including suspicious ties to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a former top fundraiser to Blagojevich, who was charged with extortion, money laundering and other acts of cronyism.
And so, first and foremost, the President-elect needs to require of these Chicago advisors – chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and senior advisors Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod among them – that they affirm publicly that they had nothing to do with any of the issues that generated the indictment against Blagojevich, including the alleged pay-to-play scheme to fill Obama’s senator seat.

The governor’s arrest and indictment by federal prosecutors also provides the President-elect with the opportunity to clarify the status of the U.S. Attorneys. Within days of taking office, former President Bill Clinton defied precedent and removed all 93 U.S. Attorneys rather than letting them serve out their terms of office and close out any ongoing prosecutions. And there are expectations that Obama will follow suit.

When Birmingham, Ala., Democratic Mayor Larry Langford was recently charged with bribery, fraud and other federal charges, his office issued a statement that said, in part, “This is certainly no surprise to us - we anticipated something happening soon especially knowing Alice Martin's days in office are numbered with the swearing in of a new president in late January - just a little over a month from now.” Meaning Langford’s office expects U.S. Attorney Martin to be dismissed from her post and for the indictment to, in essence, disappear. Might Blagojevich be thinking the same thing?

To pass Blagojevich’s indictment off as another example of a corrupt Chicago politics makes light of the larger questions surrounding the parties involved in this indictment—the full likes of which may unfold for the better part of Obama's first term. The identity of the person who will replace Obama in the Senate is but an afterthought when compared with these more serious issues.

Filed under: Leslie Sanchez • Raw Politics • Rod Blagojevich
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Melissa, Los Angeles

    What is up with Illinois? I heard he's the 4th politician that's been caught with being corrupt. If Obama truly was involved, we'd hear about it from the wire taps. Too bad there are those who try to tear Obama down before he has even started his Presidency.

    December 10, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  2. jim

    It goes to show that corruption is rampant in Illinois. Always has been. Although Obama is not connected to the corruption at this time, people were screaming about Obama’s corrupt dealings with Tony Rezko, relationship with terrorist Bill Ayers and hate preacher Jeremiah Wright. The liberal news media would always go to his defense. I never believed that Obama came up through the ranks there and was not touched by this corruption!.

    December 10, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  3. earle,florida

    This might be difficult for some to grasp? Perhaps only a, "Madman" can manifest this rationale? What has happened in (Governor nominating Senator) Illinois, is actually quite similar to New York's Governor having to nominate Clinton's replacment as Senator! Granted PE Obama wasn't involved but Fitzgerald was their to dig up more dirt than just ( Bush Appointee?) Blagojevich's. The intrinsic value (non-tangible) is perhaps worth much more in revenue in the future, than shaking someone down for peanuts,... go figure?

    December 10, 2008 at 1:08 pm |
  4. kavin

    Which local government did not corrupt ? All of them ! it is matter of big or small, known or unknown. At mean time, I hope people can look forward and join change.gov – take part in 'seat at table' to make positive impact for our great country. ( we can sit here and talk, talk, talk, nothing is going to change without action)

    December 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm |
  5. Tom from California

    The new "dream ticket" for 2016:


    Their slogan:

    Pay to Play

    December 10, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    If Obama is going to follow Clinton's precedent and let all the US attorneys go when he takes office I do hope that he will have them do as orderly a transition as he is doing so that cases in progress will continue to progress and not just disappear. I live in Birmingham AL and I am hoping that the charges against Larry Langford do not go poof in the night.

    December 10, 2008 at 12:16 pm |
  7. Floyd Johnson

    I have an idea that could bail out the state of Illinois from all of its financial problems. Just pass a law that any politician forfeits their retirement and health care if they are convicted of any corruption or felony. Just think they wont need it any more the prison system can take care of them.

    December 10, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  8. Lisa

    I hope Obama lets the U.S. Attorneys follow these cases through. A change in federal administration is not a reason to give these idiots a free pass.

    December 10, 2008 at 11:24 am |
  9. Cindy

    All along people were screaming about Obama's corrupt dealings with Rezko and others...the media wouldn't even touch it! Do you really, truly think that Obama came up through the ranks there and was not touched by this corruption!? Come on...don't be that gullible!

    He may not have known about Blagojevich trying to sell his seat but he knew of other goings on that wasn't on the up and up and looked the other way you better believe it! If he didn't look the other way he wouldn't have rose up so fast in the ranks in Illinois.


    December 10, 2008 at 11:07 am |