* Let’s go back to the Tribune story on the latest tape release…
Shortly afterward, Pritzker offers the name of one candidate he doesn’t want to see get the Senate job: then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was angling for the appointment and later pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally siphoning campaign funds for personal use.
“Oh God, please,” Pritzker says of Jackson Jr. “I mean, what a, I mean it would be a nightmare. I hope you don’t do that.” […]
“[Secretary of State Jesse White is] totally, he’s totally, you know, uh, he’s Senate material in a way that Emil Jones isn’t, if I may say,” Pritzker says, referring to former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Blagojevich ally who is now serving as a Kennedy surrogate in the 2018 governor’s contest. […]
“I mean, you know. He’s just, I don’t know how to say it exactly, but Emil’s a little more crass,” Pritzker continues.
* Natasha Korecki literally wrote the book on the Blagojevich case. She was a top notch reporter at the federal courthouse, so here’s her take…
My first reaction was that it reminded me of a piece my colleagues and I wrote for the Sun-Times on Jan. 4, 2009. The story (and I’d link to it if the Sun-Times hadn’t taken down all of its online archives) centered on then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s phone call with Blagojevich about the Senate seat. Like Pritzker, Reid called to urge Blagojevich against appointing Jesse Jackson Jr. or Emil Jones. At the time, the powers-that-be were worried Blagojevich might do just that and were hoping to persuade him toward one of their picks.
The Sun-Times story at the time: “Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones. Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times. Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both Democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources said they think that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape. The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.”
It’s with this in mind that I read the Tribune piece in which Pritzker was advocating for an African American (who was not Emil Jones or JJJ) in the post. At the time we wrote the Harry Reid piece, he was criticized for not including a black candidate on his list to Blago.
In the recording the Tribune published, Pritzker describes White as the “least offensive,” which is, well, offensive. Tough to tell if that was Pritzker trying to manipulate Blagojevich into choosing his guy without seeming to pressure Blagojevich, which was a tactic used by many people calling Blago then.
As someone who sat through both Blagojevich trials and wrote a book about it, the Pritzker call sounded like yet another power player trying to exert influence on Blagojevich over what was a major appointment. Recall that Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich during this period asking him to appoint his congressional successor and brought up Forrest Claypool. And on the eve of his election as the first African American president, Barack Obama himself called SEIU leader Tom Balanoff, giving him the go-ahead to talk to Blagojevich about appointing Valerie Jarrett to the seat Obama was vacating. In this context, Pritzker wasn’t all that different.