Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama Blagojevich report shines light on Emanuel, Jarrett backstage politicking.


WASHINGTON -- The internal probe by the Obama transition on whether anyone on their team had a part in Gov. Blagojevich's alleged scheme to land a big job in the Obama administration, or some union or non-profit close to the president elect, concluded nothing untoward happened, though it did shine a light on some backstage politicking by Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett over the vacant Senate spot.

Jarrett, who seemed a perfect fit for the White House job she landed, senior adviser and assistant to the president for inter-government relations and public liaison, nonetheless was interested for a time in being named the junior senator for Illinois.

Unlike other contenders, who went hat-in-hand to Blagojevich -- under an ethics cloud even before he was arrested Dec. 9 on public corruption charges -- Jarrett did not approach the governor directly. I can see why. Would have been off message. Still, Blagojevich was the one with the sole appointment power, muddied up or not.

The only member of the Obama team to directly talk to Blagojevich about the Senate spot according to the report, issued Tuesday, was Obama's incoming chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who turned out to be on a free-lancing mission at first on behalf of Jarrett.

In the report, issued by Greg Craig, to be Obama's White House counsel, Emanuel "recommended Valerie Jarrett because he knew she was interested in the seat." What Emanuel did not know was that Obama "had ruled out communicating a preference for any one candidate," even for Jarrett, a confidante of both Obama and wife Michelle.

Jarrett, I've learned, was offered her White House spot Nov. 9, though it was not announced until Nov. 14. On Nov. 12, an Obama transition official sent word that Jarrett was taking herself out of Senate contention. But just a few days before that, the Craig report reveals that Jarrett met with Illinois labor leader Tom Balanoff on Nov. 7, to, I was told, "explore her interest" in the Senate.

Balanoff, I'm told, asked for the meeting. That Jarrett would want to talk to Balanoff was logical, because Balanoff, the head of the Illinois SEIU -- ran one of the few groups still on speaking terms with the isolated Blagojevich. Balanoff also goes way back with Obama, to his days as a community organizer in Chicago.

It was at that meeting that Balanoff told Jarrett he had talked to Blagojevich about picking her for the Senate and then asked -- really feeling her out, it seems -- if Blagojevich could be secretary of health and human services. No one suggested a link or a quid pro quo. Whatever schemes or dreams Blagojevich had about being in the Obama cabinet should have ended there.

Balanoff told the governor, "It would never happen." Jarrett agreed.


All of the interesting political news these days is, without question, coming from Chicago. National Desk Reporters Jim Warren, Lynn Sweet and Carol Marin have all, it seems, been camped out at the station reporting moment by moment on this story of greed and it's first cousin, ineptitude. (Jim Warren reported 4 times yesterday on MSNBC, casualed out in handsome Holiday-style apparel). Everyone is wondering "WHAT"S NEXT" with this recalcitrant governor? Will Illinois have 2 sitting senators on January 20th? This is the most sensational political story in Illinois since, since last year! From the moment Federal Marshalls, in Chicago, pounded on the Governor's door at 6 o'clock in the morning, arrested him, hand-cuffed him and drove him away in that dark sedan, this story has been spellbinding and will undoubtedly continue to be until the Governor possibly boards that great North-South route train they call the City of New Orleans and it deposits him at the federal lock-up in beautiful downstate Marion, where the Governor may have ample time to wrrite his memoirs, tend to his bouffant and cuss all he wants.

The criminal complaint says:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with SEIU Official, who was in Washington, D.C. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that approximately a week before this call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH met with SEIU Official to discuss the vacant Senate seat, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH understood that SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1’s interest in the Senate seat.

During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008,
ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat.

SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “one thing I’d be interested in” is a 501(c)(4) organization.

There are two conversations mentioned between Blagojevich and Balanoff on behalf of Valerie Jarrett. You've only been given the explanation for one, and are only reporting on one.
I would be interested to hear how Blagojevich (and CNN) were under the impression that Jarrett was Obama's first choice, when supposedly that wasn't true.
Did Obama know any of this was going on?

Was everyone sneaking around behind Obama's back, or is he trying to be too clever in hiding his knowledge about what they were doing?

I would like to hear more about Balanoff and Obama's and Jarrett's apparently very close relationship with the SEIU.

In NY Carolyn Kennedy is being put down because she didn't give enough $$$$ to NY Democrats when they ran for the SEIU Union seems to think they can get political jobs for whoever they want--Whatever happened to giving the job to someone Honest who doesn't buy it.
There are very few honest politicans left anymore. The Governor is a fall guy for corruption that has gone on too long in this State. How did the Governor get his job?

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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