That year, he gained his first high-level experience in a statewide campaign when he advised the victorious gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, another politician with a funny name and a message of reform. Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago and a friend of Obama's, told me that he, Obama, David Wilhelm, who was Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, and another Blagojevich aide were the top strategists of Blagojevich's victory. He and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor," Emanuel said. "We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two." A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel's account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama's role. "There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them," Wilhelm said, and he disputed the notion that Obama was "an architect or one of the principal strategists."
David Axelrod, the preÃ«minent strategist in the state, declined to work for Blagojevich. "He had been my client and I had a very good relationship with him, but I didn't sign on to the governor's race," Axelrod said. "Obviously he won, but I had concerns about it. . . . I was concerned about whether he was ready for that. Not so much for the race but for governing. I was concerned about some of the folksâ€”I was concerned about how the race was being approached." Axelrod's unease was warranted. Blagojevich and people close to him have been tied to a seemingly endless series of scandals. The trial of Tony Rezko revealed that Rezko used his influence in the Blagojevich administration to profit from companies seeking business with the state. There is speculation that Blagojevich will be the next governor to be indicted, and the Democratic Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, has raised the issue of impeachment.
No wonder Barack has been silent about Blagojevich's corruption. Why condemn what you helped create?