ICPR Paul Simon Fellows Respond to Blagojevich Trial on May 31, 2011
Shaleigh Jansen & Erica Adams:
We spent our day at the Blagojevich retrial yesterday listening to hours of testimony covering a number of charges against our former Governor. With Blagojevich on the witness stand, the defense spent the bulk of the morning questioning him about allegations of an attempt to extort campaign contributions in exchange for state aid to a tollway project. The defense then moved on to charges of a scheme to extort campaign contributions in exchange for increased Medicaid payments to doctors at Children’s Memorial Hospital. The day ended with the defense beginning their questioning of Blagojevich about allegations that he attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by President Barack Obama. What jumped out at both of us during yesterday’s testimony was the oversized role of fundraising in the former-Governor’s life. Blagojevich testified that rather than report to his office to govern, he would stay home in order to conduct political and fundraising work (interestingly, he testified, to abide by regulations prohibiting political work on state time). The former Governor recounted and explained fundraising meetings and phone calls with close advisors, which sounded almost frenetic in their content and tone. Those listening yesterday also received insight into Blagojevich’s thought process, which almost always seemed to include the question, “What can I get?” Blagojevich and his group of advisors appeared to be running an aggressive race to fundraise, continually racking their brains for potential donors. This unending push to fundraise reminded us of a quote from the namesake of our fellowship, Paul Simon. On the high cost of campaigning, the former Senator from Illinois and founder of ICPR said that “raising that kind of money takes an enormous amount of time. And it compromises us all.” This was apparent to us in our day at the Blagojevich retrial yesterday. Our state deserves public officials concerned with the business of governing rather than those compromised by the endless race to fundraise.