Despite an impassioned last minute closing argument, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty by the Illinois Senate on the Article of Impeachment. The vote was 59-0 to convict Blagojevich of the single Article of Impeachment for abusing power. Elements of the Article included alleged criminal conduct and administrative breaches of separation of power. The Senators also voted 59-0 to disqualify Blagojevich from further public office in Illinois.
Illinois Lt. Governor Patrick J. Quinn was to be sworn in momentarily to take office as Governor. Blagojevich, who left shortly after his closing argument several hours earlier, was not in attendance.
Just before deliberations, Senator Ricky Hendon (D), requested that the Senators be allowed to vote separately on sections 9 (expansion of health coverage), 10 (flu vaccine), and 11 (prescription drug) of the original single Article of Impeachment. The purpose of the request was that some Senators supported Blagojevich's position on those issues. Chief Justice Fitzgerald ruled that he did not have the power to separate out the single Article of Impeachment, and that only the House which issued the Article of Impeachment could make a change; also, Fitzgerald ruled that the Rules did not permit such a change.
During deliberations, each Senator was permitted up to 5 minutes to speak. Senator William R Haine paid homage to House Speaker Michael Madigan for constantly upholding the Constitution of the State against attempts by Blagojevich to "misuse a position of great power and authority" to "enrich his associates and himself." Haines said Blagojevich's argument was based on "an arrogant assumption of power," and that Blagojevich did not offer any evidence to contradict the federal complaint affidavit.
Senator Dale Righter (R) said Blagojevich's words and deeds told a different story than Blagojevich told in his appearance, and that even before becoming Governor Blagojevich conspired with "the likes" of Tony Rezko. Righter derided Blagojevich for shaking down a children's hospital (one of the allegations in the criminal complaint affidavit). Blagojevich is "someone from whom the people of this state must be protected."
Other Senators made similar, sometimes angry, comments in voting for impeachment. Senator Kirk Dillard (R) wished Blagojevich well in his "new Hollywood career." Senator Mike Murphy (R) castigated the "speech" Blagojevich gave today, which he said reminded everyone that Blagojevich was "an unusually good liar" including the claim that Rules were unfair; Murphy called Blagojevich a "hypocrite" for invoking his constitutional rights while ignoring the rights of others.
Senator Dan Duffy (R) called attention to the widespread long-standing corruption in State government, and Blagojevich's comments that he did everything with the help of the Democratic leadership. "We have just scratched the surface of corruption" and that Blagojevich must have had help, and others "must have known" about it. [Editorial note: Including Barack Obama who used to sit in this august body?]
Senator Terry Link (D) invoked a speech at the Democratic Convention in 1968, in which it was said "the whole world is watching," and reminded other Senators that the whole world is watching again. Link said that "we in this chamber can do something about this now, this isn't a partisan problem, we have to get the trust of the citizens of the State of Illinois back to government."
Numerous Senators took Blagojevich for not appearing earlier in the case to challenge the facts, and that closing arguments are not evidence. Just about every Senator, in their comments, presumed that Blagojevich was guilty of the charges in the criminal complaint affidavit, and noted that Blagojevich presented no contrary evidence.
Senator Martin Sandoval (D) called out "free at last, free at last, free at last." Senator James Meeks (D) said that it wasn't a sad day, but a great day, "what a joy that we don't have to form a militia" because "we have a process." "We have this thing called impeachment, and it's bleeping golden, and we've used it the right way."
During deliberations Senator Ricky Hendon (D) noted the sadness that Senators in Washington had a "don't send me no black person list" for Obama's open Senate seat, which Blagojevich was accused of attempting to sell. Hendon castigated the Senators for shooting down prior proposals for a recall law allowing the people to recall politicians at all levels.
Senator James Clayborne, Jr. said that when we heard the wiretaps, and noted that Blagojevich could have called his brother and state employees, who were on some of the wiretaps. Or why Blagojevich didn't call lawyers as witnesses to explain the legal basis for Blagojevich's administrative actions. "Maybe when you were travelling around and speaking on the circuit in NY," Clayborne said, Blagojevich could have had a lawyer present, and Blagojevich was not under oath in the closing statement. "I believe Governor that you are unfit."
Analysis of the entire Blagojevich case will follow in later posts. For now, just the facts. Links to my prior posts on Blagojevich are here.