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Blagojevich Scandal Shakes Politics in Illinois and Beyond

Officials are considering a special election for Illinois' vacant Senate seat after the corruption charges levied against Gov. Rod Blagojevich. A panel examines what the case says about politics in Illinois and beyond.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Political corruption in the state of Illinois. Here's what the head of the FBI office in Chicago said about that yesterday.

  • ROBERT GRANT, Chicago FBI:

    A lot of you who were in the audience asked me the question of whether or not Illinois is the most corrupt state in the United States. I don't have 49 other states to compare it with, but I can tell you one thing: If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Gwen Ifill takes it from there.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So what do the allegations against the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, tell us about Illinois politics and politics in general?

    For that, we turn to presidential historian and Chicago native, Michael Beschloss; NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW in Chicago; and Laura Washington, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Let's go to all of our Chicago experts, starting with you, Elizabeth Brackett. What do we know new today about this very complicated case?

    ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour correspondent: Well, the first thing we know is that Governor Blagojevich thought it was a regular, ordinary day as he went off to work. He was surrounded by television cameras; that may have been the only difference, stayed at work all day. An aide said he did some business for the state and then left at 4:30.

    A top aide, though, did resign today. There was no explanation of that — Deputy Gov. Bob Greenlee — as to why he resigned, but he resigned.

    The other big news of the day is you had in the news summary was that Jesse Jackson's attorney — Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s attorney identified him as Senate candidate number five, and that's significant because, in the complaint from the government yesterday, they said that Gov. Blagojevich was recorded as saying that an associate of Senate candidate five — now we know it was Jesse Jackson, Jr. — he identified him as pay-to-play.

    He said, "You know, he'd raise $500,000 for me. Then the other guy would raise a million dollars if I made him a senator."

    So that obviously was very detrimental to Jesse Jackson, who had the news conference, as you saw, was adamant about the fact that he never sent an emissary to Gov. Blagojevich, that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

    Now, we do know that he will go on Friday to the U.S. attorney's office to talk to Patrick Fitzgerald.

    The other news of the day was that President-elect Barack Obama, his voice, he joined it with many others calling for the governor to resign.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But no more discussion today about impeachment, resignation, or a special election?

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Oh, there was a lot of discussion about all of that today. The calls for impeachment are growing. There is now a bill introduced into the Illinois legislature calling for impeachment in the House. The House and the Senate in Illinois are going back on Monday for special sessions. They will begin to consider impeachment.

    They will also consider another bill that has been placed in the legislature that would call for a special election for a new senator, so there's a lot of talk about both.