The Blagojevich Files: The Unnamed 'Senate Candidates'
Among the details of the lengthy federal bribery and conspiracy charges filed against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, a few choice "unnamed" Senate candidates stick out.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President-elect Barack Obama and a Chicago businesswoman, is likely "Senate Candidate No. 1." Blagojevich thought of "trading" the Senate seat to Jarrett in exchange for becoming secretary of the Health and Human Services Department or leveraging Jarrett's selection for a job with "Change to Win," a coalition of labor unions organized by the Service Employees International Union.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed opined was a candidate in a Nov. 7 column, is likely "Senate Candidate No. 2."
The FBI reviewed Sneed's Nov. 7 column and found similar information between the wiretaps and the article. In the piece, Sneed referenced the Madigan rumor as the "latest from Blagoville" and wrote, "Even though this sounds like looneyville...stay tuned."
"Senate Candidate No. 4" is a deputy governor of Illinois, according to the indictment. The current deputy governors to Blagojevich are Dean Martinez, Bob Greenlee and Louanner Peters. Whoever No. 4 is, he or she is apparently a close aide to Blagojevich; the candidate is referenced as someone the governor could "count on...if things get hot, to give (the seat) up and let me parachute over there."
"Senate Candidate No. 6" is only referred to as a "wealthy person from Illinois."
The real mystery lies with "Senate Candidate No. 5." In wiretaps from Dec. 4, Blagojevich is said to be giving the candidate "greater consideration" for the seat because the candidate would "raise money" for the governor if he ran for re-election.
Most notably, Blagojevich recounts an incident where an "emissary" to No. 5 approached him sometime before Oct. 31 and offered to "pay to play," according to a federal wiretap.
"That, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (the candidate) a senator," Blagojevich is quoted as saying.
On Dec. 4, Blagojevich said he was "elevating" No. 5 on his list of prospective candidates and arranging a meeting "in the next few days."
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Chicago's South Side congressman and a potential candidate for the Senate seat, met with Blagojevich yesterday, according to the Chicago Tribune, and discussed his credentials over a 90-minute meeting.
Jackson, 43, who has served 13 years in Congress, has "mounted the most highly visible campaign among several people who are being considered for the Senate post," the article said. Blagojevich called Jackson "a very strong candidate in a very strong position" for the job, but quickly cautioned that no one should "read too much into this because I haven't made up my mind."
There are other possibilities, however.
On Nov. 10, Blagojevich apparently authorized the leak to Sneed that the governor had a "long, productive discussion" with No. 5. The FBI believed that this information was "untrue," according to the complaint.
Four days later, on Nov. 14, Sneed made mention of Illinois Senate President Emil Jones being in the running. "Sneed hears Gov. Blago, who will choose Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate, privately feels there may be only one choice that makes sense: His buddy, outgoing Senate President Emil Jones."
Jones, 73, has long been considered a front-runner in the race.
And, in a column published today, Sneed referenced veteran state Rep. Arthur L. Turner as a possible candidate Blagojevich was considering for the spot.
Turner, 58, is currently in his 13th term in the Illinois House, having served since 1981. The Chicago Democrat is also a finalist for director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
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