Another View: Hey Blagojevich, please give up the political limelight

Rod Blagojevich is looking for some heavy-duty polish to spiff up his sullied reputation. He thinks he may have found it. The disgraced ex-governor has filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the ban on him running for office – either statewide or locally.

“If I were to fall dead right here, my obituary in tomorrow’s papers wouldn’t be that good,” he told a gaggle of reporters earlier this month outside the Dirksen Federal Building, adding that he wanted to pursue “things with my life where that obituary can be corrected.”

Forgive us for chuckling. We know all about Rod’s love affair with the limelight. There he was, 18 months removed from the commutation he received from Donald Trump, soaking up the cameras outside the Dirksen building, the very edifice in which he was convicted of multiple counts of corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison. His message: He’d been wronged because he’s barred from hitting the Illinois campaign trail again.

We have a message for Rod. You can spiff up that reputation faster than you can say Roland Burris. Simply make the ultimate sacrifice, and step away from that limelight you crave so dearly. Your 15 minutes are up. Just walk away. Embrace a private life.

Blagojevich’s lawsuit has little chance of surviving. In 2009, Illinois lawmakers impeached and then convicted Blagojevich, and afterward voted to ban him from ever holding state or local office. The ex-governor’s filing argues that the ban results from an unconstitutional impeachment proceeding that robbed him of his due process rights. He contends he was denied due process because he was denied the right to call witnesses.

The problem with that logic is twofold. First, he was offered the ability to call witnesses and present evidence, and chose not to. Second, an impeachment proceeding is a political undertaking, not a criminal one. Due process doesn’t come into play.

Blagojevich also argues that the ban is unconstitutional because it denies voters “their right to vote for or against him in a free election.” What he forgets is that voters did indeed vote for him. In doing so, they trusted that he would uphold the sanctity of the office, place Illinoisans first and above all, abide by the law.

He did none of that. Instead, as the prosecutors in the Blagojevich trial reminded us in February 2020, the jury convicted him of the following:

— Extorting the CEO of a children’s hospital by withholding important state funding to help sick children until the CEO provided campaign contributions;

— Extorting the owners of a racetrack by intentionally holding up the signing of important legislation until the owners provided campaign contributions in response to an explicit demand for them;

— Extortionately demanding funding for a high-paying private sector job, as well as campaign contributions, in exchange for naming a replacement to an open U.S. Senate seat;

— And lying to the FBI to cover up his criminal activity.

And of course, we can’t leave out how he set his sights on us. The prosecutors’ sentencing memorandum mentioned that Blagojevich’s transgressions included “demanding the firing of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board members in exchange for assistance to the Tribune Co. for financing in relation to the sale of Wrigley Field.”

Back when Trump commuted Blagojevich’s sentence, we gave the former governor some well-intentioned advice:

“We’d much prefer Blagojevich never try to restart his political career.

But there are ways for him to make contributions to the greater good. He could work on criminal justice issues on behalf of advocacy groups or find ways to help social service agencies.

He could lecture, or minister, or serve others at a community center. Blagojevich has talents. Every former governor or member of Congress does. He has energy. He has time.

Here’s hoping Blagojevich finds a way forward as a contributing member of society.

But let him do so as quietly as possible.”

Clearly, he hasn’t heeded our advice. He should.

Chicago Tribune