Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) was arrested today and is being charged with various crimes related to widespread political corruption. Blagojevich, who swept to power in part due to frustration with corruption and abuses by former Governor George Ryan (R-IL), is accused of trying to sell or trade the vacant U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama (D) for personal gain. At this time, there is no reason to believe that Obama was aware of these events or has any connection to them whatsoever.
Blagojevich was subject of a month-long probe by law enforcement officials and was recorded on court-ordered wiretaps discussing payment for the Senate seat or even appointing himself to the seat to advance his own political career. “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain,” he said, adding that the seat is “a valuable thing—you just don’t give it away for nothing.”
Under Federal law, states have the authority to set their own procedures for replacing a U.S. Senator who leaves office during his term. Some states call for a special election, but Illinois—like many states—permits the governor to appoint a new Senator to serve the remainder of an open seat’s term. Obama officially resigned from his seat in the Senate on Nov. 16, less than two weeks after being elected the next President of the United States. Governor Blagojevich still has the authority to appoint the next Senator from his state, but in the event of his resignation, removal from office, or incapacitation before making an appointment the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn (D-IL), would be responsible for doing so.