Two people I know who have spent considerable time with Rod Blagojevich say he seeths with anger/jealously when the topic of Barack Obama comes up -- perhaps because Obama's national spotlight is so bright no one else in Illinois can be seen.
It will be interesting to see if Blagojevich asks for campaign help from Obama and even more interesting to see if the wunderkind Senator obliges. He already has used political capital for state Treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who has been the subject of scathing editorials from the Tribune on his bank loans to questionable individuals.
Obama should feel particularly uncomfortable around Rod. Already the subject of nine separate state and federal investigations, the news promises to get worse in coming weeks for the Governor as the investigations progress. Obama tried to play dumb about some of Rod's corruption in an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board this week.
"I have not followed closely enough what's been taking place in these investigations to comment on them," Obama told the Daily Herald this week. "Obviously I'm concerned about reports that hiring practices at the state weren't, at times, following appropriate procedures. How high up that went, the degree at which the governor was involved, is not something I'm going to speculate on.If had been paying attention, of course, he would have to acknowledge that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has found evidence of "endemic hiring fraud" in his administration and "credible witnesses" to back the claims.
Two other Blagojevich practices ought to bother Obama, at least according to an interview he gave ABC News earlier this year. Obama said he doesn't take gifts from lobbyists.
Obama said that to avoid any problems, his personal rule was to never accept gifts or money from lobbyists.And he says he is opposed to allowing government officials to leave their jobs and immediately go to work for companies they dealt with.
For example, Obama said, a government official in charge of passing a prescription drug bill should not work later for a drug company.John Wyma is Rod's former chief of staff in Congress and now a lobbyist who has made tons of money off the administration and in return helped raise tons of money for Rod. If Barack's staff wants to look here, they will see that Wyma has given Rod at least $500 in personal gifts every year Rod has been governor.
And if Barack's staff wants to look here and many other places, they will see that Rod's top deputies are turning right around and cashing in on their government service in the exact way that Obama opposes.
(Jack) Hartman quit the tollway in February to join The Rise Group, a Chicago-based construction consulting firm that made more than a quarter-million dollars last year on a tollway contract. The company's president, Leif Selkregg, has been a contributor to Blagojevich's campaign fund since 2001.So, it looks like if Obama supports Rod it's solely because of his party affiliation. Rod's lack of integrity since he's been in office already is well documented. The real question is whether Barack will show any integrity by backing away from him, or if he'll simply become another party hack like his seatmate from Illinois.