Anti-gun Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) was taken into custody this week on federal corruption charges. He has been accused of conspiring to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat, seeking “personal financial benefits.” The evidence? U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald released a 76-page FBI affidavit detailing an investigation that includes court-authorized wiretaps that are alleged to contain conversations where Blagojevich discusses exchanging the Senate appointment he controls for:
· A salaried position with either a non-profit foundation or a labor union-affiliated organization;
· Placing his wife on paid corporate boards;
· Commitments from individuals to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich, and;
· A cabinet post or ambassadorship in the Obama Administration.
Illinois is not unfamiliar with political corruption. In fact, the man Blagojevich succeeded, Governor George Ryan (R), is currently serving time on federal corruption charges. What makes this particular arrest so intriguing is the fact that Blagojevich was under federal investigation already. Tony Rezko, an Illinois businessman and political fundraiser with ties to the Governor, was convicted earlier this year on numerous charges, including corruption, fraud and extortion. As part of the Rezko investigation, also headed by Fitzgerald, several others with ties to Blagojevich have faced charges. It was no secret that Fitzgerald’s continuing investigation of corruption in Illinois politics--an investigation that covers nearly six years--was focused on the Governor. Whether you call it hubris, chutzpah, or just plain arrogance, the idea that Blagojevich would undertake what appears to be such a blatant criminal enterprise while under investigation for other alleged criminal acts leads one to ask, “What was he thinking?” Or maybe a better question is, “Was he thinking?”
Of course, the pro-gun community will not be saddened by these developments, as Blagojevich has pushed assaults on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens regularly during his time in office. He has helped to promote an increasingly hostile atmosphere for Illinois gun owners. Ironically, as anti-gun as Blagojevich has been, he was still in possession of a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card, which he was ordered to surrender on Tuesday when he was released on bond.
Whether or not this latest development in the investigation of Illinois corruption will lead to legal problems for others tied to this scheme remains to be seen. Several prominent Illinois politicians appear to be linked to the attempt to sell President-elect Obama’s Senate seat. At this point, it does not appear that Obama himself was involved, but whether or not anyone close to him took part in the scandal is unclear. Also unclear is how, if at all, this scandal will impact an Obama Presidency. While some attention was paid to Obama’s ties to Tony Rezko during the presidential campaign, this latest development seems to bring the scandal of Illinois political corruption a little bit closer to the future occupant of the White House. Rest assured, NRA will watch this saga very closely, as will the rest of the nation.