Rod Blagojevich

Former Illinois Governor (since January 2009)

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Why He Matters

Before his indictment on federal corruption charges, Blagojevich, a Chicago-born Democrat, had enjoyed a steady, decade-long rise in the city's old-style political machine. And the insidious political corruption that enshrouded that machine had always worked to his advantage.

But the same machine that fomented the governor's rise has impeached him for abuse of power related to allegedly attempting to sell President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald unveiled a criminal complaint against the governor on Dec. 9, 2008.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Governor of Illinois (2003 to 2009); Congress (Ill.-5th; 1997 to 2003); Illinois House of Representatives, (1993 to 1997)
  • Birthday: Dec. 10, 1956
  • Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
  • Alma Mater: Northwestern University, Bachelor, 1979; Pepperdine School of Law, J.D., 1983
  • Spouse: Patricia Mell Blagojevich
  • Web site

Path to Power

Blagojevich's father, Radisa, a former prisoner-of-war, arrived from Serbia in 1945 to work in a Chicago steel mill. His mother, Mila Govedarica, a child of immigrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina, was a ticket-taker for the Chicago Transit Authority. He and his older brother, Rob, grew up in a North Side home immersed in Serbian culture and language.

Blagojevich's competitive - some say combative - nature was evident early on. He once changed high schools to improve his chances of making the basketball team and enjoyed a brief 1-1 career as a Gold Gloves boxer.

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The Issues

In 2007, Blagojevich proposed a $2 billion-a-year universal health insurance program funded by new taxes on business. He didn't win a single vote in the state House. When he tried to expand a federal-state health insurance program for low-income families to include households that earned as much as $83,000 a year, he was blocked by the courts.

Lawmakers argued that Blagojevich's abrasive style and dismissive attitude toward the General Assembly helped doom his proposals.

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The Network

The state that gave the nation both former President Abraham Lincoln and mafia don Al Capone underscored its social and political duality by elevating Obama and Blagojevich to the national stage in 2008. As contemporary rising political stars, their paths crossed while Obama was a state senator and Blagojevich was governor. Obama advised Blagojevich's first gubernatorial campaign in 2002 and campaigned for him in 2006 even as federal authorities were investigating the governor. They also had mutual associates such as Mike Strautmanis, who is now in Obama's Office of Public Liaison, and Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted in June 2008 on fraud and bribery charges. Obama's aides say he purposefully distanced himself from Blagojevich. Federal prosecutors said Obama was unaware that Blagojevich was trying to auction off his old Senate seat.

Longtime Chicago alderman Richard Mell did more than anyone to propel his son-in-law's career from the state legislature to Congress to the governor's office. But the two have been estranged since Blagojevich shut down a landfill operated by a Mell family relative in 2004. Mell, who no longer gets to see his two granddaughters, has defended his daughter, Patricia Mell Blagojevich, saying she "had blinders on" when it came to Blagojevich.

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Additional Resources

  1. "Rod Blagojevich Biography," Biography.com
  2. "Transcript: Blagojevich News Conference," The Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 19, 2008
  3. Gaines, Brian J., "Elect, indict, repeat, Will democracy, Illinois style, ever change?" Illinois Issues magazine, Jan. 2007
  4. Lin, Joanna, "Blagojevich ran on an anti-corruption platform," The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 2008
  5. Chase, John and Long, Ray, "Subpoenas add details of Blagojevich probe," The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 29, 2008
  6. Criminal Complaint Against Gov. Rod Blagojevich
  7. Dan Mihalopoulos, Jeff Cohen and Ray Gibson, "Feds catch up with "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak," The Chicago Tribune, May 17, 2007
  8. "Fitzgerald press conference on Blagojevich Transcript," Chicago Sun-Times/Federal News Service, Dec. 9, 2008
  9. The Associated Press, June 26, 2011
  10. Korecki, Natasha, "Blagojevich, brother indicted," Chicago Sun-Times, April 2, 2009
  11. "Dan Rostenkowski," Internet Accuracy Project
  12. Chase, John, "FBI moves in with pre-dawn call to Blagojevich," The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 19, 2008
  13. Rostenkowski, Dan, "In Defense of Chicago Politics," The Daily Beast, Dec. 12, 2008
  14. McKinney, Dave and Fusco, Chris, "Blagojevich names Roland Burris to Obama's Senate seat," The Chicago Sun-Times," Dec. 30, 2008
  15. Davey, Monica, "Two Sides of a Troubled Governor, Sinking Deeper," The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2008
  16. The Associated Press, USAToday.com, Jan. 23, 2009
  17. "Fitzgerald press conference on Blagojevich Transcript," Chicago Sun-Times/Federal News Service, Dec. 9, 2008
  18. Long, Ray and Parsons, Christi, "Pulling No Punches," The Chicago Tribune, Oct. 25, 2006
  19. Slevin, Peter and Lyderson, Kari, "Illinois Senate votes to oust Gov. Rod Blagojevich," The Washington Post, Jan. 29, 2009
  20. "Illinois Governor Never Popular Among Voters," Rasmussen Reports, Dec. 9, 2008
  21. Wills, Christopher, "Blagojevich Loves to Fight, Rarely Wins," Associated Press via Huffington Post, Dec. 14, 2008
  22. Kreisler, Harry, "Abner Mikva Interview," Conversations with History Series, Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkley, April 12, 1999
  23. Tarm, Michael and Babwin, Don, Associated Press, "Blago guilty on just 1 count as Feds vow retrial," Aug. 17, 2010
  24. Colindres, Adriana, "State supreme court rejects request to strip Blagojevich of his powers," The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal Register, Dec. 18, 2008
  25. Felsenthal, Carol, "Governor Sunshine," Chicago Magazine, Nov. 2003
  26. Bernstein, David, "Mr. Un-Popularity," Chicago Magazine, Feb. 2008
  27. Jeffrey Meitrodt, Ray Long and John Chase, "The governor's $25,000 club," The Chicago Tribune, April 27, 2008