I'm still having trouble absorbing the absolutely shocking news involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the degree and breadth of his corruption 'spree' (to quote U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald.) Among the most shocking allegations are that he tried to sell his appointment to fill the Senate seat formerly occupied by Barack Obama (or appoint himself if no one would pay his price), and also that he worked to block the Chicago Tribune from selling Wrigley Field until they fired editorial writers who had been critical of him and replaced them with 'editorial support' (presumably meaning editorial writers who were willing to write nicer things about Blagojevich.) The transcripts of Blagojevich's own words are all over the internet by now, and they are pretty damning-- though those on the right side of the blogsphere who want to try and spin this into an attack on Obama are tripping over themselves since Blagojevich profanely complained that the Obama people 'wouldn't give him anything.' In fact, Valerie Jarrett, who was known to be Obama's choice for the job, abruptly removed her name from consideration, apparently right away once she found out that Blagojevich was going to make the appointment based on what he could get out of it instead of more wholesome considerations. It is even being reported that Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel may have tipped off Fitzgerald about the potential sale of the Senate seat so he could add it to the long list of investigations he had ongoing involving the Illinois Governor.
I wrote a couple of days ago regarding Louisiana Democratic congressman William Jefferson, who is facing a court date after being indicted on bribery and corruption charges that I was glad to see him go.
As in the case of Jefferson, I refuse to support Blagojevich just because he is a Democrat. My sense of partisan loyalty ends when it comes to felony corruption. If he does not resign immediately there is no question that he should be impeached by the Illinois legislature. Even before that though the Illinois legislature should immediately act on Senator Dick Durbin's recommendation and take the power to fill this seat away from the Governor and schedule a special election.
Remember how as Democrats we held the high moral ground during the Abramoff scandal, the Plame scandal and other scandals that rocked the previous Republican congress and administration. But we should not claim that our public servants are less susceptible to scandal. Instead we must maintain that high moral ground by drawing a sharp contrast to the 'hanging-on-until-the-last' attitude that characterized the Tom Delay/Scooter Libby Republicans. We have to speak out and take a strong stance against corruption.
And for that matter, that includes ongoing ethical questions. Right now Charlie Rangel, a Democrat who I've always admired, is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. While I agree that he deserves to have the investigation run its course before any action is taken, I believe that it would be appropriate for him to step aside as the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee until he is either cleared by the Ethics Committee, or the charges are sustained in which case it will be up to the House what action to take.
Political corruption can show up in politicians of any political stripe. And it is never acceptable.