“I’m from Chicago,” Barack Obama used to tell voters wondering whether he was tough enough to win the presidency, drawing laughs for referring to rough-and-tumble - and often corrupt - politics in his hometown.
But the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on charges of trying to sell Mr. Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder is probably not what the president-elect had in mind.
Authorities stressed that Mr. Obama was not involved in the far-flung corruption probe, but a 76-page FBI affidavit mentions a top Obama adviser who will be a senior White House staffer, a prominent labor union that worked for his candidacy, convicted felon and former Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko, and Washington-based consultants.
Within hours, lawmakers from both parties were calling for Mr. Blagojevich’s resignation and Republicans were trying to exploit the scandal by demanding that Mr. Obama offer more details about his relationship with the disgraced governor.
“We’re at an all-time low in our state,” said Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat.
The Illinois legislature was expected to call for a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat, a move that drew praise from some but which Mr. Rush said would put black candidates at a disadvantage.
Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House as minority whip, called on Mr. Obama to offer a clear statement right away about the investigation.
“The serious nature of the crimes listed by federal prosecutors raises questions about the interaction with Governor Blagojevich, President-elect Obama and other high-ranking officials who will be working for the future president,” he said. “Simply put, I ask President-elect Obama to publicly explain tomorrow exactly what steps he is going to take to ensure that the forthcoming investigation is independent, fair, open and honest. Those planning to work for President-elect Obama should be as forthcoming.”
Democrats who had been reveling in their presidential victory were suffering political heartburn Tuesday as the federal corruption charges detailed expletive-laden conversations and Mr. Blagojevich cursing the president-elect.
“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald told reporters Tuesday, referring to the last president to hail from Illinois.
“If Illinois isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s a strong competitor,” FBI chief Robert Grant said during the press conference.
Mr. Blagojevich’s predecessor George Ryan is serving jail time for racketeering and fraud. The current governor is on track to be the fifth Illinois chief executive to be indicted or convicted since 1929.
Mr. Obama told reporters he had no knowledge of the goings-on in the governor’s office, and authorities said the person they identified as Senate Candidate 1, thought to be transition co-chairwoman Valerie Jarrett, had done nothing wrong.
The president-elect said he was “saddened and sobered” by the news but that it was not appropriate for him to comment on an ongoing investigation.View Entire Story
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