Sale of U.S. Senate Appointment
Regarding the Senate seat, the charges allege that Blagojevich, Harris and others have engaged and are engaging in efforts to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, to benefit Blagojevich and his family through corruptly using Blagojevichs sole authority to appoint a successor to the unexpired term of the President-elects former Senate seat, which he resigned effective November 16. The affidavit details numerous conversations about the Senate seat between November 3 and December 5. In these conversations, Blagojevich repeatedly discussed the attributes of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois, and the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive if he appointed various of the possible candidates.
Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being stuck as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wifes employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.
In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: if . . . theyre not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it. Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich said: Im going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. He added later that the seat is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just dont give it away for nothing.
Over the next couple of days - Election Day and the day after - Blagojevich was captured discussing with Deputy Governor A whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy or various ambassadorships. In a conversation with Harris on November 4, Blagojevich analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to the highest bidder. The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation.
Later on November 5, Blagojevich said to Advisor A, Ive got this thing and its [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, Im just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. Im not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there, the affidavit states.
Two days later, in a three-way call with Harris and Advisor B, a consultant in Washington, Blagojevich and the others allegedly discussed the prospect of a three-way deal for the Senate appointment involving an organization called Change to Win, which is affiliated with various unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
On November 10, Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, Governor General Counsel, Advisor B and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed, among other things, a deal involving the SEIU. Harris said they could work out a deal with the union and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Blagojevichs appointment of Senate Candidate 1, while Blagojevich would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future. Also during that call, Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that the President-elect would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him.
In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but theyre not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them. Earlier in that conversation, Blagojevich suggested starting a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, which he could head and engage in political activity and lobbying. In that conversation with Harris and other discussions with him and others over the next couple of days, Blagojevich suggested by name several well-known, wealthy individuals who could be prevailed upon to seed such an organization with $10-$15 million, and suggesting that he could take the organizations reins when he is no longer governor, according to the affidavit.
On November 12, Blagojevich spoke with SEIU Official who was in Washington. This conversation occurred about a week after Blagojevich had met with SEIU Official to discuss the Senate seat, with the understanding that the union official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1's interest in the Senate seat. During the November 12 conversation, Blagojevich allegedly explained the non-profit organization idea to SEIU Official and said that it could help Senate Candidate 1. The union official agreed to put that flag up and see where it goes, although the official also had said he wasnt certain if Senate Candidate 1 wanted the official to keep pushing her candidacy. Senate Candidate 1 eventually removed herself from consideration for the open seat.
Also on November 12, in a conversation with Harris, the complaint affidavit states that Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political. Harris said: legal is the hardest one to satisfy. Blagojevich said that his legal problems could be solved by naming himself to the Senate seat.
As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was elevating Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would raise money for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something tangible up front. Noting that he was going to meet with Senate Candidate 5 in the next few days, Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to reach out to an intermediary (Individual D), from whom Blagojevich is attempting to obtain campaign contributions and who Blagojevich believes is close to Senate Candidate 5. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate but Blagojevich was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5, according to the affidavit.
Blagojevich allegedly told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that if Senate Candidate 5 is going to be chosen, some of this stuffs gotta start happening now . . . right now . . . and we gotta see it. Blagojevich continued, You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybodys listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me? Blagojevich further directed Fundraiser A to talk to Individual D in person, not by phone, and to communicate the urgency of the situation.
Blagojevich spoke to Fundraiser A again the next day, December 5, and discussed that days Chicago Tribune front page article stating that Blagojevich had recently been surreptitiously recorded as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. Blagojevich instructed Fundraiser A to undo your [Individual D] thing, and Fundraiser A confirmed it would be undone, the complaint alleges.
Also on December 5, Blagojevich and three others allegedly discussed whether to move money out of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund to avoid having the money frozen by federal authorities and also considered the possibility of prepaying the money to Blagojevichs criminal defense attorney with an understanding that the attorney would donate the money back at a later time if it was not needed. They also discussed opening a new fund raising account named Citizens for Blagojevich with new contributions.