- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CHICAGO | Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich writes in a new memoir that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wanted his help in arranging to leave the Obama administration after two years to reclaim his seat in Congress.

Mr. Blagojevich writes in “The Governor” that Mr. Emanuel spoke with him about whether it was possible to appoint a “placeholder” to the congressional seat Mr. Emanuel was giving up so that he could win back the seat in 2010 and continue his efforts to become speaker some day.

“As we have done for many months, we will continue to decline comment,” Mr. Emanuel’s spokeswoman, Sarah Feinberg, said in e-mail Monday.

The impeached governor also admits in the book that he wanted something in exchange for appointing President Obama’s successor in the Senate, but it wasn’t the deal described in federal corruption charges against him.

The Chicago Democrat said that the night before his arrest in December, he had launched a plan to appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the Senate seat because he hoped to cut a deal on pet projects with her father, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

That plan was ruined by his arrest. Mr. Blagojevich writes that he eventually appointed Roland W. Burris, in part because of Mr. Burris’ famously big ego. No one else but Mr. Burris would accept the appointment and fight to be seated under the circumstances, the governor contends.

The ex-governor’s 264-page book, published by Phoenix, comes out Sept. 8. It offers a benign picture of events surrounding Mr. Blagojevich’s arrest in a corruption scandal that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said would make Abraham Lincoln “roll over in his grave.”

The scandal cost Mr. Blagojevich his job when lawmakers impeached and threw him out of office in January. The once-rising political star is scheduled to stand trial next year. Mr. Blagojevich, who has pleaded not guilty, repeatedly asserts his innocence in the book.

He said his discussions about possible successors to Mr. Obama amounted to “ordinary and routine politicking.”

But federal authorities cast it in a much different light, charging that Mr. Blagojevich was caught on FBI wiretaps discussing what he could get in exchange for the seat, from jobs to campaign contributions.

Mr. Blagojevich said that story is “upside down” and that he never asked for - or even raised the subject of - campaign contributions in exchange for the Senate seat.

When Mr. Blagojevich talked to Mr. Emanuel after the election about the Senate pick, Mr. Obama’s right-hand man “did not lobby for anyone in particular,” according to the book.

Mr. Blagojevich said Mr. Emanuel was interested in his own career because he had to give up his congressional seat to work in the Obama White House. Mr. Blagojevich writes that Mr. Emanuel dreamed of being speaker of the House and wanted to know whether Mr. Blagojevich would work with him to name a successor to “hold” his seat until he wanted it back.

Mr. Blagojevich also writes that he struggled with the idea of appointing Lisa Madigan to the Senate. The prospect “repulsed” him because of bad blood with her father.

But in the end, Mr. Blagojevich saw it as a way to entice Mr. Madigan to support legislation he wanted, including a long-stalled statewide construction program that he said would create jobs and expand health care access for families.

It’s unclear whether the Madigans were aware of Mr. Blagojevich’s intentions. Ms. Madigan said in November that she thought there was a “less than zero” chance the governor would appoint her. Ms. Madigan’s spokeswomen, Robyn Ziegler, said the attorney general hasn’t read the book and doesn’t intend to read it.

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