“Pay To Play” Is The Chicago Way


The Kool-aid slurping media and bloggers are in full campaign mode trying to spin yesterday’s arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich as some sort of exoneration of Teh Precious.  From the NYT:

In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.


Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.

You see, even though both Barack and Michelle Obama are well connected to the Daley Machine in Chicago, they have manged to remain pure and innocent.  Some bloggers have already concluded that any attempt to link Obama to this scandal will be an attempt to smear him by association.  From Digby:

The minute I heard about Fitzgerald’s press conference, I knew this would follow shortly: Questions Arise About the Obama/Blagojevich Relationship
That’s Jake Tapper, not making any charges but bringing up all kinds of cross currents in Illinois politics to suggest that there are “questions.” And all over TV they are talking about “corrupt Chicago politics,” which is being splashed onto Obama.

It’s natural that Obama and many of his staff have crossed paths with the players in this scandal. But according to Lynn Sweet of the Tribune, who has followed Obama for some time and is not a sycophant, says the campaign put a mile between itself and Blagojevich, not even allowing him to speak at the Democratic convention. They are not close.

I don’t know if this will go anywhere. At this point, I think there’s just too much news and too many problems for a phony scandal to have any legs. But, as I wrote almost a year ago, these Chicago shennanigans have elements of a perfect right wing smear by association if they have the energy to launch one and the press decides it’s sexy enough.

Nowhere in her post does Digby allow for the idea that any allegations against Obama might be true, or that he might be involved in any of the corruption for which Chicago is infamous.  In Chicago, the definition of an honest politician is one who stays bought.

Michelle Obama was literally born into machine politics – her father was a ward boss.  She worked for a law firm (with Bernadine Dohrn) that has close ties the Mayor Daley, and then went to work for Mayor Daley.  In 2002 she began working for University of Chicago Hospitals and in May 2005, a few months after Barack was elected to the U.S. Senate, she received a promotion that almost tripled her salary.  She also was appointed to serve as a board member for TreeHouse Foods Inc. (a major Walmart supplier) which paid her another $50,000 a year.  I’m sure her promotion and board appointment had nothing to do with her husband being a Senator.

Barack worked his way up from “community organizer” to State Senator to US Senator in Chicago by making friends with the political machine.  He was not an outsider or a reformer, he was the consummate insider.  Rezko, Wright and Ayers were some of his friends, but his godfather was Emil Jones, the President of the Illinois Senate who bragged that he made Obama a U.S. Senator:

So how has Obama repaid Jones? Last June, to prove his commitment to government transparency, Obama released a comprehensive list of his earmark requests for fiscal year 2008. It comprised more than $300 million in pet projects for Illinois, including tens of millions for Jones’s Senate district.

Obama supporters have seized on the alleged recorded statements of Governor Blagojevich contained in the indictment as proof that Obama refused to participate in “pay for play.”  But Blago’s brazen behavior suggests that such corruption is commonplace and there is no indication that the Obama transition team reacted with shock or outrage to his demands.

Obama’s refusal to pay the requested bribe in exchange for selecting his replacement in the Senate may have been based on moral principles.  But it could also have been based on concern over the ongoing investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald.  It’s not exactly a secret, Tony Rezko was convicted earlier this year but has not yet been sentenced and rumors have been circulating that he was cooperating in exchange for leniency.

Or maybe Obama was just too cheap to pay up.



2 Responses to “Pay To Play” Is The Chicago Way

  1. Fredster says:

    In a city like Chicago in a state like Illinois, how in the hell can Obama not have been touched by the corruption and dirt in the politics there?

    Good God, I’m from Louisiana and this stuff makes me cringe! Shit, we only had one governor go to prison, Edwin Edwards.

  2. Cyn NY says:

    This post has more information than I’ve been able to garner from anywhere else. I nominate you News Czar. Excellent work.

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