Prosecutors allege the ex-governor tried to leverage his Senate appointment power as a bargaining chip to find his next job.
At times, there's a kid-in-a-candy-store flavor to the wish lists that Rod Blagojevich rattles off in the wiretaps played at his corruption trial. A very frustrated kid in a store with shelves that leave things mostly out of his reach.
Blagojevich wants to be ambassador to India, or maybe Indonesia. Or how about the United Nations?
The list goes on: a cabinet post such as health and human services secretary or commerce secretary, university professor, political action committee director, advocacy group head, leader of a nonprofit. Maybe, he said, he would just appoint himself to the vacancy in the U.S. Senate that he's now accused of essentially trying to sell to the highest bidder.
Or, to put it another way, Blagojevich desperately wanted to be anything but Illinois governor, the job he twice campaigned furiously to win.
"Whatever cabinet position would be not stupid?" Blagojevich asked on one call.
Dreaming big is hardly a crime.
But prosecutors contend Blagojevich is guilty of far more than having outlandish thoughts. They allege he tried to leverage his Senate appointment power as a bargaining chip to transform something on his wish list into reality, constantly asking "What about me?" instead of thinking of what was best for Illinois.
The defense, on the other hand, argues there's nothing criminal going on. It was all just theoretical talk, and what Blagojevich really wanted to do was appoint Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in a political deal with her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, that would have broken a political stalemate in Springfield.
Eventually it will be up to the jury to decide. And the panel had plenty of material to listen to last week, hearing a long series of secretly recorded conversations in which Blagojevich discussed jobs he could get in exchange for appointing someone Barack Obama wanted to Obama's U.S. Senate seat once he was elected president in 2008.
The jury heard calls between Blagojevich and a number of his advisers, including his chief of staff, John Harris, as well as his wife, Patti.
"There's opportunity here," Blagojevich said on one recording. "I'm gonna offer in good faith to make a good, a decision for the U.S. senator but it, it, it is not coming for free."
On one call with Harris, the two tossed around more than a dozen specific jobs in a discussion about how Blagojevich could try to make money and still be politically viable enough to possibly launch a campaign for higher office.
Blagojevich sounded unsure whether he had the credentials for some of the jobs.
"On the other hand, Bill Daley was commerce secretary. What the (expletive) were his credentials?" Blagojevich said. "Ron Brown was commerce secretary. The commerce secretary is much bigger than ambassador to India. Right?"
On one call to his wife, she could be heard checking on a union organization called Change to Win that Blagojevich thought he could head. His wife saw on the Internet that it looked like an all-volunteer group.
"It doesn't matter," the governor said. "You're … just wasting (expletive) time."
Blagojevich continued explaining that the post would be invented for him, so he'd be paid.
"All of this gets (expletive) created, you understand," he said. "It doesn't mean a (expletive) thing who gets paid or doesn't get paid over there. 'cause none of it is … we're makin' it up."
Patti Blagojevich wasn't happy when her husband got mad and threatened to hang up on her.
"Well, what? I mean, ah, what do you want me to say?" she said on the call. "I tried to be helpful and you jumped down my (expletive) throat."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun