WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald accused Gov. Blagojevich on Tuesday of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama "like a sports agent," auctioning it to the highest bidder, deluding himself that somehow he could even finagle his way into Obama's Cabinet.
The stunning criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich raised the question of just how the seat can be filled, with the process contaminated by a governor on a "political corruption crime spree."
Blagojevich lost the ability to pick Obama's replacement. The leaders of the Illinois General Assembly will meet in special session next week to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power, and I bet they will do it with veto-proof majorities.
And if a brazen Blagojevich insists on selecting an Obama successor in the meantime -- who in their right mind would accept? -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will invoke a rarely used power that senators have to decide whom to seat.
"A different process to select a new senator must be put in place -- and that process should not involve Gov. Blagojevich," Reid said in a statement.
Blagojevich's alleged conduct is audacious, especially since he has been in the scope of investigators for years. Usually in Illinois, politicians know how to walk right up to the pay-to-play line and not cross it. Based on this complaint, it looks like Blagojevich, a runner, leaped across the line in a variety of schemes to try to leverage the appointment.
Maybe there is an innocent construction here, but the various angles Blagojevich was working is jaw-dropping, even for Illinoisans who have a high tolerance for hanky panky.
"The conduct would make Lincoln role over in his grave," said Fitzgerald.
The complaint says the governor was trying to "sell the Senate seat" and lays out the various deals, including an ambassadorship or Cabinet post for himself if he picked an Obama pal. Obama, Fitzgerald said, had nothing "whatsoever" to do with this.
On Nov. 5 Blagojevich said, according to the complaint, "I've got this thing and it's f- - - - - - golden and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for f- - - - - nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there."
What's hard to believe is that Blagojevich thought that Obama would appoint him to any slot in his administration no matter who he picked for the Senate spot.
Because he was under an ethics cloud, the Illinois governor played no significant role in the Obama operation; Obama's team kept him at a distance. Blagojevich did not speak at the Democratic convention in Denver. He was not at the Obama Grant Park celebration on Nov. 4.
Ironic, isn't it? Blagojevich could have used this Senate pick to help rehabilitate his reputation.