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What impeachment? Blagojevich signs bills as legislators plot ouster

December 15, 2008 |  8:46 pm

Scandal plagued Illinois Democrat governor Rod Blagojevich and California Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger together in a 2007 photo

Hard to believe, but charges of partisanship flew in Illinois today as the state legislature voted 113-to-zip to launch impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who's accused of demanding money for such things as filling Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat and allowing state aid to flow to a children's hospital.

The unanimous vote indicates the Democratic governor's support is non-existent in the legislature, where both houses are controlled by Democrats. However, the partisan disagreement centers on how to replace the blustery governor:

By having the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, another Democrat (see photo below), succeed to the office and as surely as Abraham Lincoln is buried in Springfield, nominate another Democrat to the vacant Senate seat or by holding a primary in February and special election in April, which could in theory give Republicans a fighting chance?

You'll never guess which solution is favored by each party, even though QIllinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn a Democratuinn said last week a special election was the best way to clear the air. He's now reconsidered.

A little background on Illinois politics for Ticket readers outside Cook County: Lieut. Gov. Quinn and Gov. Blagojevich (see 2007 photo above) have not actually spoken to each other in more than one year.

In the state's clan-ridden Democratic Party, the fact that the state's top two elected officials are not speaking isn't really considered noteworthy. A lot of factions aren't speaking, until there's a deal to make.

The House Speaker Michael Madigan launched the impeachment move, which pleased most everyone, and then ignored Republican requests to at least talk about a special election, which shuts that avenue down for now. Madigan appointed a special committee to begin gathering abuse of power....

...evidence against Blagojevich to proceed in what are, despite the state's long history of corruption cases, legally-uncharted impeachment waters.

Blagojevich, for his part, continued acting like a normal governor, signing bills while wisely also hiring a high-powered legal defense team.

While the crude, transcript excerpts read aloud by U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald last Tuesday are politically devastating, the question remains is such talk criminal?

Or did the imminent threat of Blagojevich's alleged sale of the Senate nomination force prosecutors' hand before sufficient evidence of a crime was actually gathered on the bugs and wiretaps?

Obama transition officials claimed Monday they'd been asked by the U.S. attorney to delay release of their promised diary of contacts with the governor. Fitzgerald has said there's no evidence of any illegal involvement by Obama, who's said he's certain no staff was involved in such bargaining.

Another legal avenue against the governor -- having Blagojevich suspended from office -- is being pursued in the Illinois Supreme Court by the state's Attorney General, whose last name may now ring a bell:

It's Lisa Madigan, another Democrat, who happens to be the speaker's daughter and whose name also figured in late speculation as a possible Obama Senate replacement.

So one scenario involves Blagojevich being impeached. Quinn rising to become governor, beholden to Speaker Madigan. And coincidentally deciding that upon serious reflection AG Madigan would make the best Senate replacement for Obama. And Speaker Madigan's influence grows exponentially, in Springfield and Washington. But that's just wild speculation.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credits: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images (top); the Illinois Channel (Pat Quinn, bottom).