By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois has moved past Rod Blagojevich, yet questions linger.
Such as, for example, the point at which politicking becomes a crime?
Blagojevich’s lawyers used an appeals hearing last week to once again argue the twice-elected governor was guilty of little more than political horse trading, some five years after he was arrested in a scheme to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.
“There was a requirement that (Blagojevich) knows he is doing something wrong,” Blagojevich lawyer Leornard Goodman told the appellate court hearing the former governor’s case last week. “A political appointment has never been prosecuted as a crime.”
Blagojevich was caught on tape talking about how to land either a new job or a get a campaign contribution in exchange for naming someone to then-President Elect Obama’s Senate seat.
“It does not seem like a slam dunk for the government,” Natasha Korecki a journalist and author of the book “Only in Chicago,” which chronicles Blagojevich’s trial. “It’s clear (the appellate court) had some very fundamental questions about the Senate seat aspect of this.”
The judges quizzed Blagojevich’s lawyers about former Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, then governor of California, promising to deliver the state for Dwight Eisenhower. Warren asked for, and later got, a seat on the high court in exchange.
But Blagojevich was not “just talking” or “horse trading,” says University of Illinois at Springfield professor Kent Redfield.
“People exchange favors and incur obligations. That’s normal give and take, but usually it involves doing something in relation to an election or constituents,” Redfield told Illinois Watchdog. “When it gets to be about private gain, then you have crossed the line.”
Redfield said there is no doubt Blagojevich overstepped his bounds.
The former governor was heard on tape urging his brother to tread carefully about a political request, and the Illinois State Police said Blagojevich asked them to once sweep his office for bugs.
Redfield said those are not the actions of someone who is simply “horse trading.”
“There is some gray in this case. But Blagojevich knew that he was engaging in activity that was illegal, or questionable, in terms of the legality,” Redfield said.
“There is nothing redeeming about Blagojevich.He would have gone down as a huge failure even if he had not been arrested or impeached, because of the Illinois’
(disastrous) finances and the state of state government.”
You can reach Benjamin Yount at [email protected] and find him on Twitter @BenYount.