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2nd Scandal for Obama: Democratic Illinois Governor Arrested

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Ill. governor arrested on corruption charges

Feds: Blagojevich sought to profit from choosing Obama's Senate successor


NBC News and news services

updated 7:15 a.m. PT, Tues., Dec. 9, 2008

WASHINGTON - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

John Harris, the governor's chief of staff, was also charged, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade for personal gain the state's U.S. Senate seat.

Federal prosecutors have investigated Blagojevich's administration for at least three years. The governor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The Department of Justice alleges that in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:

a substantial salary for himself at either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;

placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;

promises of campaign funds — including cash up front;

a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public's interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions."

Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal Operation Board Games involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Blagojevich.

Blagojevich and Harris are due to appear in federal court later on Tuesday to face the charges.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

NBC News' Pete Williams, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28139155/

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