Corruption

Breaking the Law to Spite a (Possible) Lawbreaker

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Since Rod Blagojevich's indictment on corruption charges a few weeks ago, Illinois politicians and prominent Democrats across the country have been declaring their outrage, demanding his resignation, and insisting that he not, under any circumstances, dare to proceed with an appointment of Barack Obama's replacement in the Senate, the position he is accused of trying to sell to the highest bidder. At the same time, it was clear that his opponents had few legal options. They could impeach him, but that takes time. The state Supreme Court rightly rejected Attorney General Lisa Madigan's frivolous attempt to immediately remove the governor from office by declaring him unfit. And now that Blagojevich has gone ahead and picked a new senator, as the Constitution unambiguously authorizes him to do, the threats to block the appointment seem equally empty. Senate Democrats have declared that they will refuse to seat Blagojevich's choice, former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, but it seems pretty clear they do not have the constitutional authority to do so. (Jack Balkin tries to make the case that they might, but he he seems unpersuaded by his own efforts.) It is hard to see how Blagojevich's loose talk about getting something of value in exchange for the Senate appointment, which may not even rise to the level of a crime on his part, makes his appointment of Burris any less legal. If the Democrats really cared about the rule of law, they would swallow their embarrassment and let Burris take his seat. 

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  1. If the Democrats really cared about the rule of law, they would swallow their embarrassment and let Burris take his seat.

    This. It would be OK if they had evidence that *Buriss* obtained the appointment improperly, but there has been no such evidence forthcoming, and since Blago has been under serious surveillance for quite a while now, it is unlikely that there will be any sudden revelations.

    Also, Harry Reid can go suck something salty.

  2. the Illinois democratic party is a mess. The best was at the national convention last summer when they had hugfest.

    Quinn doesn’t talk to Blago. Ritchie ignores them as the most powerful democrat in the state… Jesse White tumbles.

    And the head of the GOP looks and sounds like a hair dresser from Cicero…

  3. So what do they want instead? For there to be no replacement for Obama? Sounds good to me! I can definitely live with only 99 senators.

  4. If the Democrats really cared about the rule of law

    Haha- good one!

  5. There has to be a more ridiculous picture of Hot Rod than that one, Jacob.

  6. This is so incredibly entertaining. I especially found the “lynch” comment from Bobby Rush to be weird yet hilarious at the same time. Play that race card, Bobby! Yeah, that’ll make it all better!

    What a weird state.

  7. It would be OK if they had evidence that *Buriss* obtained the appointment improperly, but there has been no such evidence forthcoming

    It might be morally okay, but it might not be consitutional. SCOTUS precedent strongly implies that congress can only refuse to seat a congressman if they find he doesn’t meet the qualifications for office–i.e., the candidate isn’t a US citizen or is below the required age limit.

    Although, I suppose theoretically they could seat him and then kick him out on ethics charges.

  8. Blago is a political suicide bomber. There was lobbying for an African American replacement from the black community ever since Obama won. Blago knew this and after the Dems said they wouldn’t appoint his appointment he decided to go nuclear. If he’s going down he’s taking as many as he can with him.

  9. It’s really the perfect storm. Blago’s move was brilliantly cynical, and the Dem leadership have painted themselves into a corner with their hasty pronouncements. Fitzgerald’s pre-emptive strike (forced ahead of schedule by the Chicago Tribune?) has backfired, as have the early attempts to paint Blago as “insane.” Add Bobby Rush’s disgraceful “lynching” remarks to the mix, accompanied by the bizarre concept that one black senator must be replaced by another, and you have a gift that keeps on giving, to Republicans.

  10. Although, I suppose theoretically they could seat him and then kick him out on ethics charges.

    This.

  11. “Add Bobby Rush’s disgraceful “lynching” remarks to the mix, accompanied by the bizarre concept that one black senator must be replaced by another, and you have a gift that keeps on giving, to Republicans.”

    The same thing is going on in NY. Hillary is reported as wanting a woman to replace her.

  12. I’m not sure it’s all that certain that a tainted appointment couldn’t be overturned. However, I agree that the governor was legally compelled to make the appointment and that the Senate is going to have a hell of a time doing anything about it. The Illinois legislature could’ve done something about this, but chose to punt instead.

    Burris is supposedly pure–for Illinois, anyway–so this was a smart appointment. He’ll be very difficult to dislodge.

    I liked Rush’s comments, too. He played the lynch card, then he suggested that it was the right of all blacks to have another black male in the Senate seat vacated by Obama. WTF?

  13. If there’s nothing wrong with Burris then just f’ing seat the guy.

  14. I’ll say this about Blago, he has moxie, and he IS entertaining.

    He has definitly added to the newscycle.

  15. Lamar, the real problem is that theres no way Burris holds the seat in 2010. The Democrats know this, and so does Blago. But at the same time, he’s black, so they can’t oppose him without looking like racists.

    This guy is Nixon-level evil.

  16. “I liked Rush’s comments, too. He played the lynch card, then he suggested that it was the right of all blacks to have another black male in the Senate seat vacated by Obama. WTF?”

    That was a slight mistep. I expected “lynch” accusations to eventually come out, but I didn’t expect a preemptive attack. I figure they would let him take a couple of shots, wait for the race card accusations to be levied, and then rally the troops.

  17. That’s because Bobby Rush is borderline insane. He’s the same guy who said Obama is “the white man in black face”.

  18. PC,

    That’s Illinois for you. They skip steps in their political dealings.

  19. I’m gonna say what a lot of other people are afraid to say.

    Osama bin Laden is a Uncle Tom.

  20. Shoulda gone with Keyes.

  21. And there’s the very real possibility that, after all the dust has settled, Blago could actually escape prison. Where’s the smoking gun? Where’s the money? Where’s the grainy hotel-room video (“The bitch set me up!”)? Fitzgerald’s halo might be a bit tarnished by the time this one plays out.

  22. “But at the same time, he’s black, so they can’t oppose him without looking like racists.

    This guy is Nixon-level evil.”

    How would you like to be a white Democratic politician in Chicago right now? Listen to the national party and you’ll lose your primary. Don’t listen to the national party and good luck with statewide and national races in the future. Those are the people that are really hurt in my opinion. They all were rubbing their hands hungry to make a name for themselves at his expense and he came back with a big middle finger.

  23. Obama could get defuse the racial stuff, but then that drags him into it even more. Blago is really a sick bastard.

  24. I’m starting to enjoy Blagojevich. He’s like Huey Long or Lyndon Johnson crazy.

  25. Shoulda gone with Keyes.

    Now that would have been a shitstorm of awesome. Awesome entertainment, that is!

  26. They should have invited Keyes, too, so after Rush compares it to a lynching Keyes can compare it to an abortion.

  27. The Senate can definitely expel a Senator with a 2/3 vote. So even if they must seat him, they could expel him immediately thereafter, and repeat this process if necessary until Blago is gone. Not sure if they want to go that route though.

  28. What would be really cute is if the Senate Dems were one vote short of breaking a GOP filibuster on some Obama-backed bill during his first 100 days. Were that to happen I’m sure they’d have no trouble seating whoever Blago sent them.

  29. OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. Blagojevich is about to go FULL RETARD!!! Everyone find cover!

  30. cunnivore – the funniest part of all would be if the Dems did move to expel Burris…and the six (seven?) Republicans they need refused to play ball.

    You would have Mitch McConnell on CNN using folksy Kentucky gravitas to defend a black big-city Dem.

  31. OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. Blagojevich is about to go FULL RETARD!!! Everyone find cover!

    Honestly I thought this move of his was kind of crafty, if as BDB said, in a diabolical sort of way.

  32. Naga Sadow | December 31, 2008, 1:18pm | #

    I don’t agree. Everyone has him put on a 2-7 offsuit. He went all in. Do you really want to put in all your chips to find out? Besides his phone calls, he made just about every right move he could have in his situation. I find it hilarous watching politicians, who really aren’t that different than Blago, and the MSM, who knows that this type of stuff goes on and provides cover for them by operating on the assumption that they are “virtuous”, act all surprised and outraged. Blago’s still corrupt but he doesn’t have to operate on fake virtue anymore. The curtains on his operation was already pulled off, he’s just running with it.

    My first prediction of 2009. Blago’s book will be the most interesting read in years, either that or the plane he flies on the way to negotiating the book deal with his publisher will suddenly explode.

  33. If they don’t want Burris then they should just follow the constitution and obtain a writ of election. An appointment is only temporary until a special election can be held, not until the general election is held. At least, that’s what my pocket constitution tells me.

  34. It is hard to see how Blagojevich’s loose talk about getting something of value in exchange for the Senate appointment, which may not even rise to the level of a crime on his part,

    I would *hope* it at least violated Illinois’ state ethics laws. But those aren’t likely to be criminal, and would affect the validity of the appointment . . . .

  35. The Illinois legislature could’ve done something about this, but chose to punt instead.

    If you’re referring to setting up a special election, they would have needed Blago’s approval.

  36. P.C., Elemenope,

    Bah! (waves hand dismissively)

  37. Obama could get defuse the racial stuff, but then that drags him into it even more. Blago is really a sick bastard.

    Blago is awesome. Nothing better than when the sharks…uh, I mean politicians, get into massively dirty internecine fights. Fuck yeah!

    I welcome all the pain that Blago might bring to Illinois’ political establishment. I revel in it.

  38. And here I thought Obama’s victory would bring unity and peace and hope and change to our political establishment. It seems to have done the opposite in this case! Say it ain’t so, joe.

  39. Episiarch, I thought the candygrams were coming back when halfway through your post.

  40. Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things. The mob has plans, the cops have plans, [Obama’s] got plans. You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So, when I say… When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you.

  41. What about Madoff? Oh, we don’t do private sector crooks.

  42. I love this kind of stuff. I wish he had picked someone completely ridiculous for the senate seat, though, so we could really see that middle finger sticking up like a beacon.

  43. Moose, like Carrot Top, Elvis, or his dog?

    Ohh…no, pick Glenn Howerton!

    “You look like a dick in that tiny jacket!”

  44. Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!

  45. You know, I read that first Joker quote and thought about Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.

  46. “””If there’s nothing wrong with Burris then just f’ing seat the guy.”””

    No shit. Blago is still the Gov and gets to make the choice. Personally I don’t like any ex-prosecutor moving into a law making position. But the appointment should and probably will stand.

    The reason the job is tasked to one man instead of a body of people is so he can make the appointment without interference from everyone else. The circus is proof of why it should be that way.

  47. Not that I am in any sympathetic to Blago, but I just heard that Fitzgerald asked for an extension to file an indictment. He want until April 7th! Does that sound like too long between arrest and indictment to anybody else here?

  48. …and you have a gift that keeps on giving, to Republicans.

    Maybe on a national level, but it’s not going to help Illinois Repubs.

    How would you like to be a white Democratic politician in Chicago right now?

    Other than Blago, I think they’re feeling fine.

  49. Actually, Epi, Alan Keyes would have probably been the best pick. I mean, it would have really really really really pissed a lot of people off. He could have also appointed Ralph Nader – that would have been acceptable.

  50. Yes, how’s God Mayor Daley handling all of this?

  51. TAO, he has to compile enough circumstantial evidence to be able to introduce reasonable doubt.

    I think the guy is corrupt as hell, but did he actually commit a crime? Is it a crime to intend to commit a crime? I don’t think he should server as a public servant, but only because we ALL know he was gonna do it, and that ruins the public trust. But not because he’s a criminal. He’s probably not, in the strictest sense of the word.

  52. He doesn’t have to be found guilty in a court of law to be impeached. I think the standard is lower for impeachment. Simply being under investigation is probably enough.

  53. he’s ignoring it.

    PC – welcome to Illinois. what highnumber said, too. it’s puzzling for non Illinoisians to imagine, but the democrats don’t talk to each other. Mayor Daley – highnumber you can correct me on this – he hasn’t said much. He doesn’t need to. He’s going on about his business. Just like Quinn is going about his. He and blago never spoke.

    remember hugfest?

  54. [Sitting in the cooler and throwing a baseball against the wall, ? la Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.]

    You know, if Illinois had the Censor, then the Censor could remove the Blagomeister forthrightly and forthwith.

  55. Actually, Epi, Alan Keyes would have probably been the best pick.

    That would have been pretty great, I agree, but I prefer even more absurd choices, like Batboy or Baron Harkonnen.

    Or a gatormensch.

  56. Or Kurt Russell, but only if he dresses and behaves like either Jack Burton or Snake Plissken during the remainder of Obama’s term.

  57. Is URKOBOLD an Illinois native? He could have appointed him.

  58. Alan Keyes shows how strong Judy Barr Topinka is.

    the gatormensch would do well on the outskirts of Cairo in the swamps! then the gatormensch could mate with a sturgeon or two. SWAMP LOVIN!

  59. The Angry Optimist | December 31, 2008, 2:02pm | #

    Not that I am in any sympathetic to Blago, but I just heard that Fitzgerald asked for an extension to file an indictment. He want until April 7th! Does that sound like too long between arrest and indictment to anybody else here?

    Geez. Looks like Fitz has nothing, other than tapes where Blago said he did things-but no tapes of Blago actually doing what he said he did, so Blago’s defense is that he’s a bullshitter that spouts of random crap all the time-which might actually be true.

    Even this is bad for Dems in general, and I am one, I am enjoying this immensely, due to the sheer entertainment factor here. Plus, Blago was able to turn Obama into more of a badass than he already was-he’s now, officially, President Motherfucker.

  60. A Gatormensch would be an inspired choice, no doubt.

  61. BDB – the URKOBOLD resides in Taintsville, FLA, Kokomo, IN, and Parma, OH. Main residence is the FLA.

    Geotpf – most of us have been waiting for Blago to get busted. Since his first freakin term. Total scumbag. He and Patty certainly have the public image that supports the opinions many had about them for years! This is pure comedy gold.

  62. “Senator William Shatner”

  63. Is it a crime to intend to commit a crime?

    “I’m in prison for a crime I didn’t even commit. Honestly, what is attempted murder, anyway? Do they give a Nobel prize for attempted chemistry?”

  64. hell – works for Martha Stewart…

    SENATOR SHAT!!!!!

    He should nominate Sulu. Oh – he’s already VP!

  65. The real question here is does Burris get a full Senate vote, or only 3/5ths of one.

    Yeah, I can’t believe I went there either.

  66. George Sr.: This is my vacation, Michael.

    Michael: You’re doing time, Dad.

    George Sr.: I’m doing the time…of my life!

  67. “Senator William Shatner”

    “Denny Crane! Why, my very name fascinates!”

  68. Episiarch,

    Oh my God, that’s perfect. Senator Kirk. Only problem is that I believe he’s still a Canadian.

  69. George Sr.: at least in prison we had knife fights and movie nights…and one night both…those men did not enjoy “soapdish” i guess you have to be part of that lifestyle.

  70. The Urkobold is ineligible. He’s still a citizen of the Landgrafschaft Th?ringen.

  71. He could have appointed Lefiti!

  72. I just trolled the entire country!

  73. BDB,

    Can’t appoint yourself, dude. (Or maybe you can, but don’t ruin my joke.)

  74. …. | December 31, 2008, 2:37pm | #

    I do have a speechwriter slot open if you’re interested.

  75. Oh my God, that’s perfect. Senator Kirk. Only problem is that I believe he’s still a Canadian.

    This very post is about breaking the law, so who cares?

    Old Woman: Are you gonna take care of the crime problem here?

    Dennis: Absolutely. I say we put ’em on buses and ship ’em over to Iraq, make ’em fight the terrorists.

    Old Woman: (smiling) You’re very handsome.

  76. Okay then, I’d appoint Queen Elizabeth.

  77. he URKOBOLD resides in Taintsville, FLA, Kokomo, IN, and Parma, OH

    Why am I not surprised?

    Given the Kirk discussion, URKOBOLD should have a field office in Youngstown, so we can make Traficant jokes.

  78. Or Robert Mugabe. That should keep Bobby Rush happy.

  79. Repealing the 17th Amendment would fix the problem. State legislatures, not governors, should be picking replacements, and this would greatly reduce corruption.

  80. I’m in, Frank. Let’s repeal it and the 16th.

  81. “””and this would greatly reduce corruption.”””

    Putting more people in the process will not reduce corruption, only expand it.

  82. Tricky – disagree. As a matter of fact, the more people in the process, the less damage each individual actor can do.

    See: “Checks and Balances”; “Federalism” and “Dictatorship”.

  83. And now that Blagojevich has gone ahead and picked a new senator, as the Constitution unambiguously authorizes him to do

    The US constitution? No, it doesn’t. It authorizes him (actually command him) to hold an election, but the 17th amendment authorizes the state legislature – if they want – give a guv the power to make a temporary appointment until an election can be held. And presumably, the legislature can take this power away.

    A lot of state legislatures have modified this authority lately; for example MA and AZ when their senators were running for president but the guv was from the opposite political party.

    Now, can they do this after the vacancy is created? i.e. does it violate the rule against ex-post facto laws? (my take is no it does no, because ex-post facto restrictions are generally for criminal law, and have specifically found not to apply to administrative law, which is more analogous to this current situation.) And of course, there may be more specific provisions on both how the senate vacancy is to be filled and ex-post facto rules in the IL constitution.

  84. When I read the name Patrick Fitzgerald, I think about, what if he had a sex partner named Gerald Fitzpatrick?

  85. TAO, he has to compile enough circumstantial evidence to be able to introduce reasonable doubt

    Uhh, what? Why would Fitzgerald want to introduce reasonable doubt?

    Regardless, an arrest in December and an indictment in May is way too goddamned long, even for a (likely) corrupt-as-all-hell politician (but I repeat myself).

  86. Within one week we’ve gone from OMG OBAMA IS TAINTED to OMG THE DEMS ARE BEING MEAN TO ILLINOIS. Here’s to eight years of kitchen sinks being thrown. Happy new year!

  87. Okay then, I’d appoint Queen Elizabeth.

    Better keep your eye on Reggie Jackson then, is all I’m saying.

  88. I don’t care how much Obama Kool-Aid anyone has consumed, if you aren’t on your knees praying to God (through the intercession of His Prophet, Obama) that he isn’t, in fact, a typical Chicago politician, then you haven’t been paying attention to the last 100 years.

    I’ll be shocked if his administration isn’t plagued with scandals, even if he personally isn’t directly associated with one. Hard to walk through the muck without any of it sticking to you. And before anyone says it, it’s not true that all of the Clinton and later McCain digging would turn everything up. Most of the good dirt is usually found months or years later. And, of course, if he is corrupt and/or is surrounded by corruption, then new scandals will occur.

    By the way, the hyperactivity of the government right now makes a scandal more likely to happen, not less likely. LOTS of billions being handed out, folks. This goes for the exiting administration as well.

  89. I recommend that every time Obama does something that’s typical of a “Washington insider,” we should all say in unison “that’s not change, that’s more of the same” ala Joe Biden.

  90. No way. Obama is enchangifying America.

    I coined “Voracity of Hope” a while back, predicting the spending we can expect from Obama and the Democratic Congress, but I haven’t come up with a good one for “Change You Can Believe In”.

    Change You Can Deceive With? Change for the Naive and Dim? Pain You Can Believe In? Meh.

  91. fair enough ProGLib. Just as long as you don’t let the current one off the hook for anything. (natch, ditto for incoming, but the bar of awful is set to 11 by dubyah. so no torture is a huge improvement)

  92. FREE Unlimited Streaming TV Shows, Movies, Music (over 6 million digital tracks), Unlimited Games, Money, Books, and College Educations (Stanford, Oxford, Notre Dame and more) http://www.InternetSurfShack.com

  93. I thought things had to improve when Clinton left. Wrong! I guarantee that the improvements will be offset by the unimprovements. We’re allowing our government to become less retrained, less accountable, and less concerned about our piddling little selves. No matter who is in the White House, we’re very likely to suffer more, not less.

  94. Saying everything sucks is to accountability as wearing a RATM shirt is to rebellion.

  95. Senate Democrats have declared that they will refuse to seat Blagojevich’s choice, former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, but it seems pretty clear they do not have the constitutional authority to do so.

    a recent ann coulter article accurately refrences several cases since 1974 where both houses of congress did exactly that, iirc, with even slimmer justification.

  96. See http://www.slate.com/id/2207754/pagenum/all/ for Akhil Reed Amar and Josh Chafetz’s argument that the Senate does have the power to exclude Burris. They distinguish *Powell* as not involving a corrupt elective or appointive process (nobody denied that Powell had been fairly elected):

    “Each house of Congress is ‘the Judge of the Elections, Returns, and Qualifications of its own members,’ according to Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution. At the founding, Senators were elected by state legislatures. If the Senate believed that legislators in a given state had been bribed into voting for a particular candidate, the Senate could refuse to seat him.

    “Because of the word ‘returns’ in Section 5, what is true of elected Senators is equally true of appointed Senators. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a ‘Return’ in the time of the framers involved a report of an appointment made by a sheriff or other official. If the Senate may refuse to seat a person picked in a corrupt election, it likewise may refuse to seat a person picked in a corrupt appointment process. (Alternatively, we might think of an appointment as an ‘election’ by one voter.)…

    “To be sure, there is no evidence Burris bribed the governor to get this seat. But imagine if Burris had won election only because other candidates were wrongly and corruptly kept off the ballot. Surely the Senate could properly deem this an invalid election. Similarly, it now seems apparent that there were candidates that Blagojevich refused to consider for improper reasons-because one refused to ‘pay to play’ early on, or because another is at the center of the impending criminal case against the governor. With the appointments process so inherently and irremediably tainted, the Senate may properly decide that nothing good can come from a Blagojevich appointment…

    ” Nor does it matter, from the Senate’s point of view, that Blagojevich hasn’t yet been convicted. In this context, the Senate itself is a judge, in the words of the Constitution, and can decide facts for itself. It need not follow the rules of criminal courts. That means it need not find Blagojevich guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as a court would if his liberty were in jeopardy. It is enough for the Senate to reject Blagojevich’s appointee if a majority of senators are firmly convinced that Blagojevich is corrupt and that any nomination he might make is inherently tainted by such corruption.”

  97. [laughing]

    You’ve got the government you deserve. This republic is so badly broken you shouldn’t be able to sell it on woot, in a $5 paper bag of “crap.”

  98. I love seeing this comment every day:

    “Something bad happened in the world. I thought Barack Obama was going to change everything! Ha ha, what suckers!”

    Yeah, remember when all the Obama voters said there wouldn’t be any more corruption?

    Uh…what?

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