- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) | Just two weeks before his arrest on corruption charges, then-Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich floated a plan to nominate to the U.S. Senate the daughter of his biggest political rival in return for concessions on his pet projects, people familiar with the plan told the Associated Press.

Mr. Blagojevich told Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, that he was thinking of naming state Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat vacated when Barack Obama won the presidential election, said two Durbin aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A Madigan appointment would have been a political shocker because the governor had been warring politically with her father, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, on and off for Mr. Blagojevich’s two terms in office.

The aides said the concessions Mr. Blagojevich wanted in return were progress on capital spending projects and a health care bill that were stalled in the state legislature.

In November, Miss Madigan said the chance was “less than zero” the governor would offer her the seat, adding that she did not think that she was even being considered. She is a likely contender in the 2010 governor’s race.

It was already known that Mr. Blagojevich thought of her as a possible pick for the Senate seat but this conversation, unreported until now, provides details and shows he went as far as discussing the idea with at least one high-ranking fellow Democrat.

The 10-minute conversation took place Nov. 24 as Mr. Durbin was in his car using his cell phone, the aides said. One aide said that Mr. Durbin considered the idea an “innocuous compromise” and offered to help, but was told by the governor to “do nothing,” and never heard more on the matter.

The aides spoke on the condition that their names would not be used out of respect for the custom that Senate aides most often allow their bosses to be quoted.

They gave their account in response to questions as reports circulated as to exactly what was said by Mr. Blagojevich and others on tapes made by FBI agents who wiretapped the then-governor’s home and campaign offices last fall.

Blagojevich attorney Samuel E. Adam declined to comment Monday, and Mr. Durbin’s office would offer no further comment.

Mr. Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, did not immediately return a call, and a spokeswoman for Miss Madigan said she did not have any immediate comment.

The Senate aides said that Mr. Durbin was delighted to hear that Mr. Blagojevich was thinking of naming Miss Madigan to the seat, seeing her as a popular figure with perhaps the best chance of keeping the Illinois Senate seat in Democratic hands.

Mr. Durbin volunteered to call Miss Madigan or her father to get the ball rolling and possibly broker an agreement, the aides said. And that, as far as they know, was the end of the matter, the aides said. They said the Nov. 24 conversation was the only one between the two men last fall.

Mr. Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 and faces racketeering, fraud and other charges in connection with accusations that he sought to sell or trade the Senate seat, and that he used the political muscle of the governor’s office to pressure people for campaign money.

He has pleaded not guilty. He was impeached and thrown out of office in January.

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