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Authors: Jim; Bernard; Edgar Sieracki

A Just Cause

BOOK: A Just Cause
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uring the predawn hours of December 9, 2008, an FBI team swarmed the home of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and took him away in handcuffs. The shocking arrest, based on allegations of corruption and extortion, launched a chain of political events never before seen in Illinois. In
A Just Cause
, Bernard H. Sieracki delivers a dynamic firsthand account of this eight-week political crisis, beginning with Blagojevich's arrest, continuing through his impeachment and trial, and culminating in his conviction and removal from office. Drawing on his own eyewitness observations of the hearings and trial, the comments of interviewees, trial transcripts, and knowledge gained from decades of work with the Illinois legislature, Sieracki tells the compelling story of the first impeachment and removal from office of an Illinois governor, while providing a close look at the people involved.

A Just Cause
depicts Blagojevich as a master of political gamesmanship, a circus ringmaster driven by personal ambition and obsessed with private gain. Sieracki examines in depth the governor's unethical behavior while in office, detailing a litany of partisan and personal hostilities that spanned years. He thoroughly covers the events leading to Blagojevich's downfall and the reactions of the governor's cohorts. The author discusses the numerous allegations against Blagojevich, including attempts to “sell” appointments, jobs, and contracts in exchange for financial contributions. Sieracki then exhaustively recounts Blagojevich's senate trial and the governor's removal from office.

This engrossing volume is both a richly detailed case study of the American checks-and-balances system and an eyewitness account of unprecedented events. It will appeal to anyone interested in the stunning, true tale of a state upholding the maxim “The welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

Bernard H. Sieracki teaches public administration at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and at the Stuart School of Business, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Sieracki received his PhD from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Prior to teaching he was an Illinois lobbyist for nearly four decades.


The Impeachment and Removal of Governor Rod Blagojevich

Bernard H. Sieracki

Foreword by Jim Edgar

Southern Illinois University Press


Copyright © 2016 by the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

19   18   17   16      4   3   2   1

Jacket illustration
: Governor Rod Blagojevich. Photo by Jay Barnard. Courtesy of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sieracki, Bernard H.

A just cause : the impeachment and removal of Governor Rod Blagojevich / Bernard H. Sieracki ; foreword by Jim Edgar.

 pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-8093-3463-6 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 0-8093-3463-1 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-8093-3464-3 (e-book) — ISBN 0-8093-3464-X (e-book) 1. Blagojevich, Rod R., 1956– Trials, litigation, etc. 2. Illinois—Politics and government—1951– 3. Governors—Illinois—Biography. 4. Political corruption—Illinois. I. Title.

F546.4.B55S55 2015




Printed on recycled paper.

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.

To Mary Alice, whose support makes everything possible


Jim Edgar

Even in a state stained through the years by corruption at every level of government, this profound moment claimed a special place in the annals of wrongdoing. Three governors had been imprisoned soon after leaving office, two for misdeeds while serving as Illinois' chief executive. But none had been impeached until the General Assembly, like a team of surgeons removing a cancer, urgently but methodically excised Rod Blagojevich, the state's fortieth governor.

The unanimous votes by the Illinois senate on January 29, 2009, to uphold abuse-of-power charges brought by the house and to bar Blagojevich from ever again holding elective office came less than eight weeks after Illinoisans were jolted by news bulletins that FBI agents had arrested, handcuffed, and booked their governor. There had been rumors of wrongdoing almost from the time he took his oath in January 2003. Various media and government watchdogs had uncovered suspicious activity by Blagojevich and his cronies even before he won reelection in 2006 by a comfortable margin. But the drama of his arrest in the predawn hours of December 9, 2008, both shocked and focused the Illinois political establishment, especially the leadership of the legislature.

In a real sense, that most shameful day in Illinois political history led to some of the most heartening activity we had seen from the General
Assembly in recent years. The arrest brought to a head the turbulent six years of Blagojevich's erratic and arrogant stewardship. It became obvious that the legislature, criticized for avoiding the tough decisions necessary to right the state's fiscal course, needed to act quickly to begin rebuilding public trust in state government as well as the state government itself. From a political standpoint, Democratic legislative leaders had the most at stake; Blagojevich shared their party label, and almost all of them had backed him for reelection. However, after years of partisan wrangling, leaders of both parties largely cooperated to ensure that the impeachment was handled responsibly, resolutely, and expeditiously, working through the Christmas holidays to get the job done. In doing so, they reaffirmed that public officials must exercise their power with restraint and integrity.

What captured the most attention from the public and the majority of reporters was Blagojevich's unethical and ultimately illegal maneuvering to benefit personally and politically from his power to appoint a US senator from Illinois to succeed the newly elected president Obama. However, lawmakers also appropriately held Blagojevich accountable for defying state and federal laws while issuing state contracts and spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars without General Assembly authorization.

In this important book, Bernard H. Sieracki painstakingly documents the fashioning of the charges against Blagojevich and the strategy for pressing them. Readers of
A Just Cause: The Impeachment and Removal of Governor Rod Blagojevich
will benefit from the numerous interviews he conducted with those intimately involved in the process, including the legislative leaders and the chief prosecutor, David Ellis, who is now an appellate court judge. As a professor and lobbyist, Bernie brought academic rigor, as well as state house savvy and access, to this endeavor.

In addition to his interviews, Bernie reviewed countless newspaper reports and public records. His solid research reassures us that his observations and analysis are fact based and worthy of consideration by the readers of today and historians of tomorrow.

Governors in the fifty states have rarely been impeached. It happened—and only once—in Illinois. That makes this impressive effort by Bernie Sieracki especially meaningful.

BOOK: A Just Cause
4.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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