With the news that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is under arrest for influence peddling, it’s time to freshen my list of recent Illinois governors whose legal trouble reached felony level. As I said five years ago, when George Ryan, the last Illinois governor, was indicted on federal corrupion charges, Prairie State governors have racked up quite a record over the past half-century:
William G. Stratton (in office 1953-61): Indicted (1964) for income-tax evasion (acquitted).
Otto Kerner (1961-68): Indicted (1971) and convicted (bribery and other charges).
Sam Shapiro (1968-69): Never charged with anything, but then he only had eight months in office.
Richard Ogilvie (1969-73): Clean, so far as we know. Probably why he only served one term.
Dan Walker (1973-77): Indicted (1987) in his post-politics career as an S&L thief. Pled guilty.
Jim Thompson (1977-91): His career was about indicting other people, for a change.
Jim Edgar (1991-99): No dirt so far.
George Ryan (1999-2003): Indicted (2003) and convicted on federal corruption charges.
Rod Blagojevich (2003-present): Arrested (at home at 6:15 this morning) for influence peddling, including an alleged conspiracy to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat. For a glimpse at government at its very best, it’s worth reading the press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. It’s a 12-page PDF. Among the highlights: “In a conversation … on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”
[Update: As U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald just explained in his press conference in Chicago, Blagojevich has not been indicted; he was arrested pursuant to a two-count complaint: count one charges him and his chief of staff with conspiracy to defraud the state of their honest services; count two charges them with a scheme to get at least one editorial writer at the Chicago Tribune fired. The full 78-page complaint, in PDF form, is available here: United States of America v. Rod R. Blagojevich and John Harris.]
Four indicted; one under arrest; four unindicted.
One with charges pending.