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December 09, 2008

Blagojevich taken into custody

It doesn't look like scandal-tarred Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) will be making that Senate appointment after all.  The governor has been arrested -- and is being accused of attempting to sell President-elect Obama's Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for his family.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by FBI agents on federal corruption charges Tuesday morning.

Blagojevich and Harris were arrested simultaneously at their homes at about 6:15 a.m., according to Frank Bochte of the FBI. Both were awakened in their residences and transported to FBI headquarters in Chicago.

In one charge related to the appointment of a senator to replace Barack Obama, prosecutors allege that Blagojevich sought appointment for himself as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union, in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.

Another charge alleges Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of him in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.

Blagojevich and Harris, along with others, obtained and sought to gain financial benefits for the governor, members of his family and his campaign fund in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state jobs and state contracts, according to the charges.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."

Blagojevich is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan later today, according to Randall Samborn of the U.S. attorney's office.

One Democratic source said that Blagojevich could still make the Senate appointment from jail, if he so chose. But the Senate could also refuse to seat the appointment.

Lieutenant governor Pat Quinn (D), who hails from the reform wing of Illinois' Democratic party, would succeed Blagojevich if he stepped down, and would appoint Obama's successor.