The Not-So-Anonymous Senate Prospects in the Blagojevich Indictment

Six prospective Senate appointees are mentioned in Patrick Fitzgerald’s 76-page indictment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, though none of them are named.

Fitzgerald, at his press conference, said that this is because aspersions shouldn’t be cast on individuals whose names get dragged into recorded conversations, and that public finger-pointing should be focused only on Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff, who was also arrested and charged. But he also said his office would investigate any potential wrongdoing by others suggested by the recordings of Blagojevich and Harris.

Much of the complaint is focused on years-old corruption allegedly committed by Blagojevich, but the latter half deals with his efforts to leverage his authority to pick Barack Obama’s Senate successor for his own personal gain.

Despite their official anonymity, some of the six prospective appointees that Blagojevich was recorded discussing are easy to identify.

"Senate Candidate 1" is mentioned the most frequently and is clearly Valerie Jarrett, Barack Obama’s longtime confidante and, according to early post-election reports, his preferred choice to replace him in the Senate. Never in the indictment is there any hint that Jarrett or Obama or anyone immediately around them engaged in quid pro quo negotiations with Blagojevich or his office to win Jarrett the appointment. (In fact, at one point, Blagojevich is heard saying that, in exchange for picking Jarrett, Obama and his team are "not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.")

Still, much of Blagojevich’s scheming revolves around Jarrett, and his hope that could push Obama into some kind of deal on her behalf. For instance, on November 6, Blagojevich instructed his spokesman to leak a story to a Chicago Sun-Times columnist that "Senate Candidate 2" was under serious consideration in order "to send a message to the [President-elect’s] people."

The resulting item, written by Michael Sneed, ran in the Sun-Times on November 7 and reveals that "Senate Candidate 2" is Lisa Madigan, Illinois’ attorney general.

"Is Gov. Rod Blagojevich toying with tossing Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to [Madigan], who wants Blago’s job?" Sneed wrote, before outlining several reasons why Madigan might make a sensible pick. "Hmmm," Sneed concluded, "Even though this sounds like looneyville…stay tuned."

"Senate Candidate 3" makes only a passing appearance in the indictment, his or her name is casually tossed out by Blagojevich in a conversation in which he outlined potential strategies for securing a deal with Obama. Likening himself to a sports agent, he said: "How much are you offering, [Obama]? What are you offering, [Madigan]? . . . Can always go to. . . [Senate Candidate 3]."

"Senate Candidate 4" is identified as a deputy governor of Illinois, and entered the action in a November 10 conference call, when Blagojevich told advisors that he’d rather put "[Senate Candidate 4]" in the Senate "before I just give fucking [Jarrett] a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything."

The next day, in a conversation with Harris (the same conversation in which Blagojevich said of Obama and his team "Fuck them!"), Blagojevich mentioned appointing Senate Candidate 4 as an insurance policy, in case the legislature moved to impeach Blagojevich (an ever-present possibility these past few years). Under such a scenario, Blagojevich theorized, Senate Candidate 4 would then dutifully resign from the Senate and allow Blagojevich to appoint himself to the seat. I can "count on [Senate Candidate 4], if things got hot, to give [the Senate seat] up and let me parachute over there," the governor said. Harris agreed: "You can count on [Senate Candidate 4] to do that."

It appears that "Senate Candidate 4" is either Bob Greenlee, Louanner Peters or Dean Martinez, who are Blagojevich’s three deputy governors. Martinez was just appointed to that post a week ago.

The identity of Senate Candidate 5 will probably attract the most speculation. He (we know the gender because the indictment slips and uses a non-gender neutral pronoun twice) is identified only as someone who had been "publicly reported to be interested" in the seat. (Jesse Jackson, Jr.?)

On November 10, Blagojevich told an advisor that he’d appoint Jarrett, but that if the Obama camp failed to offer something in return, "then I’ll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5.]"

Blagojevich then conspired with his aides to again plant a story with the same Sun-Times reporter, this time claiming that he had had a "long, productive discussion" with [Senate Candidate 5] about the vacancy. It doesn’t appear that Sneed, who wrote the item on Madigan days earlier, followed up with a story, though.

Weeks later, on December 4, Blagojevich told an advisor that he was giving serious consideration to "Senate Candidate 5," because he would "raise money" for Blagojevich’s campaign account (a running sub-plot in the indictment is the governor’s effort to horde campaign cash before January 1, when tighter fund-raising regulations will kick-in.) Blagojevich was previously heard on October 28 telling an aide that a representative of "Senate Candidate 5" had contacted him. "We were approached ‘pay to play,’" the governor said. "That, you know, he’d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator."

Then, still on December 4, Blagojevich is heard saying that "Senate Candidate 5" has moved up his list and that the two would meet personally in a few days. Then, he reached out to a fundraiser with ties to "Senate Candidate 5," hoping that he would convey to the prospective appointee that he’d need to start raising money for Blagojevich immediately – that "some of this stuff’s gotta start happening now. . .right now. . . and we gotta see it. You understand?"

We may never know where that particular exchange would have led. The next day, the Chicago Tribune reported that Blagojevich’s calls were being recorded, essentially ending the investigation and leading to today’s events.

"Senate Candidate 6" probably was never a serious contender and is described only as "a wealthy person from Illinois." Blagojevich apparently expressed interest in appointing him or her with the hope that he or she, in return, would help endow a new nonprofit organization that would provide Blagojevich with a cushy job whenever he left the governorship. An adviser, though, told Blagojevich that it wouldn’t be practical to appoint this individual.