The analysis, both political and legal, regarding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is as exciting as the daily events that have been flowing from this scandal. One of the early themes advanced by legal pundits in Chicago was that due to the magnitude of the need to stop the appointment of a U.S. Senator for the most corrupt of reasons, federal prosecutors had to make their findings known before the deed was done so to preserve the integrity of the seat. But that also means all we have are recordings about the desire to use the open seat for political and monetary advantage by Blagojevich. The actual deed was never consummated.
While I believe there is more than enough evidence, even at this early stage, to show that a high level of criminal activity was taking place by the Governor, there is also an argument from the other side that still deserves a listen. Do the feds have an air-tight case, and does the Blagojevich legal team have some points to make that might vindicate them? As I said in an earlier post on this matter, this is a story that has mesmerized me, and shows no signs of abating any time soon.
But now some lawyers are beginning to suggest that the juiciest part of the case against Mr. Blagojevich, the part involving the Senate seat, may be less than airtight. There is no evidence, at least none that has been disclosed, that the governor actually received anything of value — and the Senate appointment has yet to be made.
Ever since the country’s founding, prosecutors, defense lawyers and juries have been trying to define the difference between criminality and political deal-making. They have never established a clear-cut line between the offensive and the illegal, and the hours of wiretapped conversations involving Mr. Blagojevich, filled with crass, profane talk about benefiting from the Senate vacancy, may fall into a legal gray area.
Robert S. Bennett, one of Washington’s best-known white-collar criminal defense lawyers, said Mr. Blagojevich faced nearly insurmountable legal problems in a case that includes a raft of corruption accusations unrelated to Mr. Obama’s Senate seat. But Mr. Bennett said the case raised some potentially thorny issues about political corruption.
“This town is full of people who call themselves ambassadors, and all they did was pay $200,000 or $300,000 to the Republican or Democratic Party,” said Mr. Bennett, referring to a passage in the criminal complaint filed against the governor suggesting that Mr. Blagojevich was interested in an ambassadorial appointment in return for the Senate seat. “You have to wonder, How much of this guy’s problem was his language, rather than what he really did?”