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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 04:43 pm

The governor’s okeedokee aides

Indulging Blago in the goofiest schemes imaginable

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They humored him right until the end.
PHOTO BY JOSE MORE/MCT

I spent a few hours last week re-reading the federal criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich and chief of staff John Harris. As I did, one image kept coming to mind over and over again: Howard Hughes.

Hughes, of course, was the kabillionaire whose aides allowed him to die an emaciated, bedsore-ridden mess. Instead of really taking care of him, they indulged his insanity, mainly for fear of losing their jobs.

The federal complaint is far from a complete document, but it paints a picture of a bunch of enabling hangers-on too timid to tell the man “No.” I always knew they were sycophants, I just never realized that they went to such extremes.

For instance, one of the governor’s D.C. consultants, whom Blagojevich has paid millions over the years, is caught on tape actively indulging the governor’s mad fantasy of a deal that involved appointing President-elect Obama’s preferred Senate replacement in exchange for a job heading up the Change to Win organization, a splinter group of the AFL-CIO. The consultant apparently didn’t discourage Blagojevich’s bizarre plan to have Obama-connected billionaires fund a 501(c)(4) organization that Blagojevich could eventually run.

Blagojevich and Harris are on tape discussing the idea of appointing the estimable Deputy Governor Louanner Peters to the Senate seat. Blagojevich said that if it looked like he was going to be impeached he could count on Peters to give up the seat “and let me parachute over there.” Replied Harris: “You can count on [Peters] to do that.”

Almost the entire complaint reads like that. It was “Yes, governor. Yessir. Okeedokee,” to the goofiest schemes imaginable. “Deputy Governor A stated that it is hard not to give the Secretary of Energy position to a Texan, but with Rod Blagojevich’s coal background it might be a possibility.” Like Barack Obama would ever make Rod Blagojevich his energy secretary.

Instead of telling the governor that his plots were not just silly, but flat-out crazy and maybe even illegal, they humored him right until the end.

There are a couple of mild push-backs. “Advisor A,” a former deputy governor who is now a lobbyist (and I’m pretty sure I know who he is) suggested that appointing a certain controversial wealthy person to the Senate in order to help Blagojevich raise money might not be a fantastic idea. “Advisor A responded that it would be hard to put Senate Candidate 6 in the Senate seat.”

But by the end of their discussion, Advisor A and the governor were allegedly talking about finding somebody close to this possible appointee. “Advisor A agreed to find out who is close to Senate Candidate 6.” (Just to be clear here, there is no indication whatsoever that “Senate Candidate 6” was ever informed of this conversation.)

Their guy, the man who made them what they are today, was falling off the deep end and endangering them all, yet they allowed him to carry on. Gov. Blagojevich is to blame, of course, but his so-called friends ought to be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

There are some other interesting little tidbits in the complaint that haven’t come to light. For instance, the governor and his DC consultant discussed appointing Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate as a way of “getting more done as governor.” Independent sources say the governor was convinced that he could cut a deal with Speaker Madigan on the appointment that would allow him to pass a capital bill, enact grand new healthcare programs and do all sorts of other wonderful, pie-in-the-sky things. One very well-placed source claims the governor even settled on the Lisa Madigan appointment idea the day before he was arrested.

Speaker Madigan hasn’t returned the governor’s phone calls in years, and Lisa Madigan did not enjoy life as a legislator. How the governor could even imagine that such a scheme could succeed is beyond all reason.

Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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