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People Ponder Political Fallout of Charges Against Governor Blagojevich

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People Ponder Political Fallout of Charges Against Governor Blagojevich

Gov. Blagojevich, back seat, as he leaves the Dirksen Federal Building yesterday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The news that Illinois’ sitting governor, Rod Blagojevich, had been hit with federal corruption charges and arrested sent shockwaves though the state’s political world. It also raised questions about what other state leaders should do, and who might be affected by the news. Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun reports on the political implications of yesterday’s charges.

It might be an understatement to say that people who spend a lot of time around Illinois politics are not easily shocked by corruption.

But as I talked to people about the case yesterday, they said things like “stunning,” “unbelievable,” “disturbing,” “speechless”... one person said “almost beyond comprehension.”

CROSS: I have never even seen or heard anything like this. I don’t even know if a Hollywood movie producer could come up with this script.

State House Republican Leader Tom Cross was one of those reeling after yesterday’s news. Almost immediately there was talk of impeachment, and calls for Blagojevich to resign.

CROSS: I personally think he should step down.

Leaders in Springfield also started putting together plans to take away Blagojevich’s power to decide who replaces Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate—an appointment prosecutors allege the governor was essentially trying to auction off.

By late afternoon there was talk that they would put together veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

They use those majorities to take away Blagojevich power to replace Obama and there would be nothing the governor could do about it.

CROSS: The bottom line is that this governor should not be responsible for appointing the next United State Senator from Illinois.

Throughout the afternoon, politician after politician from both parties called for the decision to taken away from Blagojevich. Senator Dick Durbin, Congressional representatives among them.

Also, by the end of the day, every single state constitutional officer was pressuring the governor to resign, including Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn.

QUINN: The governor knows what he should do—and that is to either resign or step aside.

Others pondered political questions beyond Blagojevich.

The criminal complaint against the governor includes descriptions of unsavory behavior by some people who wanted to replace Obama in the senate, and some wondered who might be tainted.

They also wondered what this might mean for Illinois’ reputation for graft and corruption.

CANARY: I’ve never read a corruption complaint that is quite as disturbing and venal as the one that came out today against the governor.

Cindy Canary heads the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, one of the state’s top watchdog groups.

She said Illinois’ reputation had been on an upswing with the election of Barack Obama—but she predicts Blagojevich’s case will a damper on that.

CANARY: When I talk to my colleagues in other states there’s often a lot of disbelief, but today, I’m afraid, takes the cake.

So far the governor has given no indication of plans to step down.

The impression from both state leaders and political observers yesterday was that the groundwork was being laid for impeachment proceedings.

State legislative leaders also announced plans for a special session to take the senate appointment away from the governor.

Blog: State Leaders Sound Off
Related:Blagojevich’s Court Appearance
Related: Lisa Madigan Outlines Options for Gov’s Removal
Snapshot: Blagojevich’s career in Illinois politics
Related: View the Criminal Complaint
Unfiltered: Fitzgerald announces charges

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