The Rockford Files

Everything in Its Place

On December 9, 2008, as I read through the federal criminal complaint against the latest Illinois governor to be indicted for the merest portion of his crimes, I could not help but feel uneasy.  Sure, it was great fun to imagine Governor Hot Rod sweating it out in his holding cell, awaiting arraignment later in the day.  Even the most casual observer of Illinois politics knew that Milorad Blago-jevich, our S.O.B., had to be corrupt.  After all, you don’t get elected governor of Illinois as a reformer if you actually are one.

The unease did not abate as Aaron Wolf and I watched a webcast later that morning of the press conference held by U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.  The assembled reporters danced around the obvious questions, and Fitzgerald followed their lead.  What is the actual federal crime of which Blagojevich is accused?  Is there one?  Aren’t Blagojevich’s transgressions, both those named in the criminal complaint and those for which he will probably never be indicted, state matters?  Isn’t this a bit like prosecuting Al Capone for income-tax evasion, the main difference being that income-tax evasion was a federal crime, and Capone was guilty of it?

If there were an actual federal crime involved, that might be one thing; but the two counts leveled against Blagojevich stretch federal law so far as to make it meaningless.  Or, rather, they stretch...

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