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Illinois politicians step up for Blagojevich, and themselves

Wednesday, Dec 6, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Bumped up for visibility.]

* Sun-Times

A group of high-profile Illinois Democrats have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s case.

In an amicus brief filed Monday, the who’s who list of current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”

Instead, they wrote that the nation’s highest court should hear his appeal to “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws.” […]

The amicus brief filed Monday echoes many of the points argued by Blagojevich’s lawyers, who say the high court must settle questions over whether prosecutors in a case like Blagojevich’s must prove a public official made an “explicit promise or undertaking” in exchange for a campaign contribution.

The petitioners in Monday’s brief wrote that current laws create “confusion” over “the necessary, legitimate solicitation of campaign contributions, on the one hand, and unlawful extortion, bribery, and fraud, on the other.”

The brief is here.


They said they are not taking a stand on the ex-governor’s guilt or innocence. What they are doing is asking the country’s highest court to clear the air around campaign finance law. […]

The amicus brief said blurry lines between legal and illegal fundraising leave politicians vulnerable.

“Although amici take no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction, they submit that this court’s guidance is needed to distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal bribery, extortion and fraud laws,” the document said.

“This isn’t a plea for a pardon. This is, I think, a demand that the court clarify what constitutes a bribe, extortion and what constitutes doing something for a constituent or somebody that asks you to do something,” Gutierrez said.

* ABC 7

“So long as the law is vague, and so long as there’s a split of opinion about what exactly it takes for there to be criminal action, a bribe, politicians of all kinds in all places will have criminal exposure,” said ABC 7 Political Analyst Gil Soffer. […]

The current and former lawmakers who signed the amici curiae brief are:

- U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9th District)
- U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL 7th District)
- U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL 11th District)
- U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th District)
- U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL 5th District)
- U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL 1st District)
- Former U.S. Attorney and Rep. Bob Barr
- Former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski
- Former U.S. Rep. David Phelps
- Former U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard
- Former State Sen. Emil Jones
- Former State Sen. Carol Ronen
- Elmwood Park Village President and former State Rep. Skip Saviano
- Attorney and former DNC general counsel Joe Sandler
- Former FEC special Assistant General Counsel Lyn Utrecht
- Edward M. Smith, former vice president of Laborer’s International Union of North America, Midwest Region
- Nancy Shier, retired manager of Early Childhood Organization
- Attorney Harvey Silverglate
- Attorney [and Cook County Commissioner] Lawrence Suffredin

Lots of FoBs (Friends of Blagojevich) on that list.

* NBC 5

“A correct determination of what words and actions are legal and what are not legal is absolutely critical,” [the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers wrote in a second brief]. “The various appellate courts are in disarray regarding whether, in a campaign finance prosecution, the government needs to prove that there was an explicit quid pro quo in trade for the donation as originally outlined in McCormick v. United States, or whether there need only be something implicitly understood as a ‘wink and a nudge.’”

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Blagojevich argued that he was innocent under the standards of McCormick, which stated a campaign finance crime only occurs when a politician makes an explicit promise of an official act in exchange for a campaign contribution, something the former governor says that he never did.

Another case, Evans vs. United States, adopts the “wink and nod” standard, saying one or both of the parties only need to believe there is such an arrangement.

“This court needs to eliminate the confusion,” the Illinois Defense Lawyers wrote. “The political candidate seeking office is supposed to ask for money. The political candidate is also expected to take the money.”

Conversely, they wrote, “political donors, by definition, are supposed to give candidates money.”


  1. - blue dog dem - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 12:03 am:

    Free Blago.

  2. - Anon - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 5:49 am:

    I retired from the state of Illinois a couple of years ago and worked under Blago during the time he was governor. It was a time that politicized IDOT government and in my opinion he wasn’t good for the tax payers and I don’t support him.
    But in my 30 years at the state I saw a lot worse things going on from politicians than what he was convicted of. Gaining something out of a political position is the norm in all political levels and the criminal justice system is no different especially judges.

  3. - Responsa - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:09 am:

    Wow. Very, very bad political timing for this action. Especially for JB. As is current fashion now will reporters put all other Democratic officeholders –and candidates–on the spot and ask if they believe/agree that toxic and laughingstock Blago should get yet another day in court because how he conducted his office and cash flow *might possibly* be perceived as just normal working politics? These amicus brief signatories think they need further court guidance on what bribery is, or what constitutes legal and illegal fundraising? Oh my.

  4. - Sue - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:13 am:

    Blagojevich was punished beyond reason for antagonizing Judge Zagel. Perhaps someone needs to admit his sentence did not fairly reflect his crimes

  5. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:20 am:

    He should be freed. He did less than the Governor of Virginia who got off. And did no more of Han most politicians

  6. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:37 am:

    Confine him to home for the rest of his sentence and prevent him from doing any media interviews and be done with it.

  7. - Publius - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:41 am:


    Did you mean that was a time that the political party in the governor’s office had changed and for the first time in 26 years the GOP was not handing out the jobs so it appeared to be political even though it was always political?

    If you retired shortly after did you have to have a letter from you precinct committee person and county chair to get your Job? Oh and be a member of 1% club? Pretty sure that stopped under Rod.

  8. - Keyrock - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:43 am:

    Why didn’t Bob Creamer just sign it himself?
    Jan should be ashamed of herself. So should Suffredin.

  9. - Ok - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:43 am:

    “Confine him to home for the rest of his sentence ”

    Just like when he was Governor?

  10. - Anotherretiree - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:53 am:

    ==admit his sentence did not fairly reflect his crimes ==
    OMG… I’m agreeing with Sue .. Think I better go back to bed

  11. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 8:57 am:

    No hard feelings for Rod here. Him and his cronies blatantly tried to shake down a developer I knew, cornering him at an event. Maybe the FoB can explain how that isn’t illegal.

  12. - Ahoy! - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:06 am:

    seems like an early Christmas gift for the republicans.

  13. - Amalia - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:25 am:

    I think he should get out as his sentence is far too great for the crime. but sign an amicus brief? that is too much.

  14. - Pieroge tirebiter - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:30 am:

    He has done enough time. I’m still not sure how only one person can go to jail for a conspiracy. Conspiracy usually requires two people.

  15. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:47 am:

    Common sense would lead us to former Sen. Howell Heflin’s statement at the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, when considering defining what is a bribe and what isn’t…”When in doubt, don’t.”

  16. - Rusty Jones - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:55 am:

    Does this mean that Skip Saviano is officially now a Democrat?

  17. - Generic Drone - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    Certainly wouldn’t hurt for the courts to look at it. I just wish they would overturn Citizens United.

  18. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 9:58 am:

    I understand the issue of honest services and think that’s a legit legal issue. I have no idea why a politician would weigh in this way, but whatever.

    Rod got what he deserved. Let’s be clear–there was a clear quid pro quo and a Governor who tries to sell a US Senate seat gets a long prison sentence for good reason. That’s pretty much the Superbowl of corruption.

  19. - anon2 - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    ==admit his sentence did not fairly reflect his crimes ==

    His ongoing lack of remorse and failure to accept full responsibility for his crimes factored in to his sentence.

    The IL Defense Lawyers raise a legitimate point. Rules need to be clear so people know how to stay out of trouble. It’s the job of the SCOTUS to resolve conflicting interpretations.

  20. - Not It - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    Why on earth would any of these pols but their name to this document?

  21. - Sue - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    Can any of you who feel Blagojevich was properly sentenced believe the Governor’s actions were 14 times more aggegious then the actions of the mastermind of Springfield who was sentenced by the same jurist to a year and a day

  22. - SSL - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    I was no fan of Rod Blagojevich, but let’s move on. The man was guilty but he has done 5 years, and anything more is vindictive. It isn’t likely that he will ever be in a position to commit a similar crime.

    Why, I’ve even heard there is a high powered public official who games the property tax system on behalf of clients, and has been doing so for years. All at the expense of residents of a once proud state. Who knows if it’s really true, but what a story that would be.

  23. - Former Legislative Aide - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:27 am:

    It is shameful to see Carol Ronen on the list after she increased her pension by $38,000 per year of life (before inflation increases) by going to work for Blago for six weeks.

    Having said that, the Supreme Court should review this case. The appellate court stated, “(We put “campaign contribution” in quotation marks because Blagojevich was serving his second term as Governor and had decided not to run for
    a third. A jury was entitled to conclude that the money was for his personal benefit rather than a campaign.)” The practice of using political campaign money for personal purposes in Illinois was outlawed before Blago became governor. From Blago’s appeal to the Supreme Court: “…Illinois law strictly forbade expenditure of campaign funds for personal use, 10 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/9-8.10, even after leaving office, 10 ILL.
    COMP. STAT. 5/9-5. Instead, state law permits politicians to spend unused campaign funds for other political purposes.”

    Even if you don’t like Blago, allowing the government to imprison people based on laws that don’t exist is a very dangerous place to go.

  24. - A guy - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    He proved “it wasn’t golden” after all. But it sure did glitter for a little bit.

  25. - Been There - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    ===Conspiracy usually requires two people.===
    Do you remember Lon Monk? And Chris Kelly?

  26. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 10:52 am:

    Nice concise list for the Feds to start with. Thanks.

  27. - Uncle Ernie - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 11:19 am:

    “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws.”

    Maybe this isn’t as much about Blago. as it is groundwork on future Supreme Court cases against Trump.

  28. - blue dog dem - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    Rich. Just wondering. Do you ever sleep.?

  29. - Pieroge tirebiter - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 12:27 pm:

    Been there-
    Do you remember Chief of Staff Emanuel and Jesse Jackson junior?

  30. - Just Me - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 12:30 pm:

    Ironic that Blago’s last chance is most likely a pardon, when he refused to issue any pardons when he was Governor.

  31. - Pundent - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    =Can any of you who feel Blagojevich was properly sentenced believe the Governor’s actions were 14 times more aggegious then the actions of the mastermind of Springfield who was sentenced by the same jurist to a year and a day=

    Yes. But then again I understand the crimes and how the federal sentencing guidelines work so I might not be the best person to ask.

  32. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 1:14 pm:

    F— Blago.

  33. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 1:27 pm:

    –In an amicus brief filed Monday, the who’s who list of current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”–

    No position, really, on any of them? Because he was obviously way guilty of being a lousy crook, in every sense of the phrase.

    The Supremes will get to around to it. In the meantime, fly right and get to work.

  34. - flea - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    I’m with Arthur Andersen.
    This guy does not deserve a break.

  35. - Hottot - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 4:24 pm:

    Blagojevich was sentenced for something the prosecutor said he was going to do. If belief that one is going to commit a crime is enough to convict them, where will it end? He’s done 5 years. That’s enough.

  36. - Pundent - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 5:07 pm:

    Hottot - Let’s say that you try to sell drugs to an undercover agent, or hire a hitman to kill your wife. You don’t complete the drug deal or end up having your wife killed. So using your logic there is no crime?

  37. - Sue - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 5:19 pm:

    Pungent- no question Blago commuted a number of crimes. His conduct didn’t approach Levines(55 months); Rezko(8 years). It was apparent Zagel couldn’t stomach Blagojevich. His sentence could have been 8 years and accomplished the same effect. 14 years is beyond reasonable.

  38. - Pundent - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 7:30 pm:

    Sue - The appellate court disagrees with you. And I’m not sure how attempting to sell a Senate seats compares to the crimes of Levine and Rezko. But all of this including the charges and federal sentencing guidelines are easily attainable.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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