WASHINGTON -- If you did not know the back story, you would not fully appreciate Rep. Rahm Emanuel's resignation letter to Gov. Blagojevich, who is the subject of impeachment proceedings in the Illinois House, for, among other reasons, trying to auction off President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Emanuel, first elected to the House in 2002, formally announced Monday he would end his House career Jan. 2 to join the Obama administration as White House chief of staff. He was the fourth ranking Democrat in the House, given the post after he ran the political operation that won back control of the House for Democrats in 2006.
He informed residents of his 5th Congressional District, anchored in Chicago's North and Northwest Side neighborhoods, with robo calls on Monday. Emanuel is on a long-planned vacation to Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, traveling with his wife, Amy, their three children and friends.
WASHINGTON--Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), incoming chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, will resign his seat on Jan. 2, days before the start of the new Congress. The race to replace him is attracting a large field of contenders, with 11 people having already filed statements of candidacies with the Federal Election Commission.
Emanuel, in Africa on a long planned vacation with his family, sent out the official news of his departure from the 5th congressional district seat in a robo call to his constitutients on Monday and a resignation letter to Gov. Blagojevich. Though the seat will be vacant with the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6, House rules allow the congressional offices in Chicago and Washington to remain open and staffed to assist any ongoing casework. A special election will be held to fill the seat, with the date to be set now that Emanuel's departure date will be established. Emanuel must decide what to do with the $1,782,189 million in his campaign warchest, of which about $400,000 is a loan he made to his campaign.
" I also want you to know, it has been a privilege and an honor to serve as your Representative for the last six years. Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for your confidence," Emanuel said in his taped call.
Eleven people have already filed papers with the Federal Election Commission declaring they are possible candidates:
Alexander Victor Forys
Mike Quigley, Cook County Board Member
Charles J. Wheelan
Sara Feigenholtz, State Representative
Justin Oberman, former Transportation Safety Administration official
Cary Capparelli, son of former State Representative
Debra Mell, incoming State Representative, daughter of Ald. Dick Mell who is not going to pursue the seat
Jan H. Donatelli
WASHINGTON -- The Obama team, pledging the ''most open and transparent transition in history,'' gets an ''A'' for disclosing donors to the Jan. 20 inauguration and a ''F'' when it comes to revealing transition meetings with groups. Contrary to its own ''seat at the table transparency policy,'' meetings are not posted on a Web site.
I'm giving a ''B'' to the Obama transition report on staff contacts with Gov. Blagojevich. The report was a summary narrative released last week of an internal inquiry into Gov. Blagojevich's selling-of-a-Senate seat scandal. While the Obama team deserves credit for disclosure -- including that President-elect Barack Obama and incoming White House staffers Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel met with federal prosecutors -- offering some notes or transcripts to support the conclusions would have been helpful.
During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, still an Illinois senator, made a pledge I heard for the first time on Oct. 24, 2007. In a school gym in Dover, N.H., Obama said if president, he would post his meetings on the Internet. That was interesting to me because Obama's Senate staff had been very selective about what Obama Senate-related meetings they disclosed and seemed to be guided by a ''less is best'' policy.
A month after the election, on Dec. 5, John Podesta, a transition co-chair, issued an Obama transparency policy. When it comes to meetings, ''the date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices'' would be ''posted on our Web site,'' at www.change.gov.
Indeed, the ''seat at the table'' section states ''on this page, you can track these meetings, view documents provided to the Transition and leave comments for the team,'' but the statement is only partly true.
My Sun-Times colleagues Natasha Korecki and Fran Spielman in a story in the Thusday paper report Rahm Emanuel's involvement in pushing Gov. Blagojevich to appoint Valerie Jarrett to replace President elect Barack Obama was deeper than previously known.
BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times Federal Courts Reporter
CHICAGO--President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned. Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.
Emanuel talked with the governor in the days following the Nov. 4 election and pressed early on for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the post, sources with knowledge of the conversations told the Sun-Times. There was no indication from sources that Emanuel brokered a deal, however.
My Sun-Times colleague Fran Spielman has a report in the Thursday paper about how Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), President elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff, was mulling looking for a placeholder to keep "his" House seat warm so he could reclaim it in a few years.
BY FRAN SPIELMAN Sun-Times City Hall Reporter
CHICAGO--Rahm Emanuel's role in attempting to influence Gov. Blagojevich's choice of a U.S. Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama could impact the heated race to fill another important vacancy: Emanuel's own seat in Congress.
Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Mayor Daley's unofficial City Council floor leader, had hoped to emerge from the crowded field of candidates in the 5th Congressional District by winning Daley's support and by persuading Emanuel to use his formidable powers of persuasion to clear the field.
But now that the Chicago Sun-Times has lifted the veil on Emanuel's efforts to persuade Blagojevich to appoint Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate, Emanuel has -- as one veteran ward boss put it -- "gone underground."
WASHINGTON--Five years ago Gov. Blagojevich wanted to put himself on a presidential track and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) handed him a hot issue that gave him national press exposure, importation of prescription drugs. Now the Blagojevich-Emanuel relationship is in the spotlight in the wake of the governor's arrest last week on corruption charges. Wiretaped conversations caught Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat. In one episode related in the criminal complaint it seems that Emanuel, Obama's incoming chief of staff, apparently told a Blagojevich staffer about an "approved list" of people Obama wanted to replace him. Blagojevich, who hoped to parlay an Obama approved pick to a cabinet seat, ambassadorship, or a big union job, in the tapes is upset that Obama did not want to give him anything for the seat except "appreciation."
Back on Dec. 24, 2003, I wrote about the Emanuel-Blagojevich alliance on the importation measure, "Politically, it put Blagojevich on the popular side of a consumer issue and could fuel his possible presidential ambitions. The January issue of Money magazine named Blagojevich one of its people to watch'' next year for setting the stage for a 2004 showdown.''
CHICAGO--President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The complaint states Blagojevich wanted a promise of a high-level appointment or some other reward for Blagojevich in exchange for Blagojevich naming Obama's friend Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the U.S. Senate.
Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.
A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.
"You're wasting your time," Emanuel said. "I'm not going to say a word to you. I'm going to do this with my children. Dont do that. I'm a father. I have two kids. I'm not going to do it."
Asked, "Can't you do both?" Emanuel replied, "I'm not as capable as you. I'm going to be a father. I'm allowed to be a father," and he pushed the reporter's digital recorder away.
WASHINGTON--Gov. Blagojevich, in the most detailed interview to date on how he will fill the Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama, told me Tuesday his replacement does not have to be an African American and he is open to selecting someone who would serve only the two years left in the term.
Blagojevich is aiming to replace Obama -- who was the only African American in the Senate -- before the new Senate is sworn in next month to give the new senator a leg up on seniority.
In a phone interview, I asked Blagojevich if he considered the vacancy an African-American seat. "I think it is a factor of a great deal of weight in my mind but it is not the only factor or the only consideration, and somebody could be the next Barack Obama who happens not to be the African American, and that person would be hard not to make a U.S. senator."
Because this is election has just one voter, contenders are working quietly to sell themselves to Blagojevich.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is waging an overt drive. I asked Blagojevich what he thought of Jackson's public campaign.
Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm, but I may be reading too much into his measured comments.
5TH DISTRICT: Justin Oberman, an aviation security specialist and Lincoln Park business man, Tuesday filed papers creating an exploratory committee for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-5th), Obama's chief of staff. Oberman is the son of former Ald. Marty Oberman (43rd). Oberman was a member of Obama's advisory committee on homeland security.