2008 | Chicago

Senate Seats for Sale

Rod Blagojevich wants you to pay to play.

DATE: 10/31/2008
TIME: 5:14 p.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich

Governor Rod Blagojevich: Hey.

Deputy Governor Robert Greenlee: Hey.

Blagojevich: What’s goin’ on?

Greenlee: Nothing much right now.

Blagojevich: I got some lady calling my house [on behalf of] Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. here a little while ago.

Greenlee: I’m telling you: that guy’s shameless.

Blagojevich: Unbelievable, isn’t it? We were approached, pay to play. That, you know, he’d raise me $500,000. [A second] emissary came. The other guy would raise a million if I made [Jackson] a senator.


DATE: 11/04/2008
TIME: 8:57 a.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich 

Chief of Staff John Harris: You know, we’re in discussions with several interested parties. 

Blagojevich: There’s opportunity here. I’m going to offer in good faith to make a good decision for the U.S. senator [seat], but it is not coming for free. It’s got to be good stuff for the people of Illinois and good for me. That’s what I’m looking at. And if I can’t get the right deal, John, then I’ll take [the Senate seat] myself. That’s kind of where I’m at. And that’ll make me negotiate better and get a better deal. What do you think of that?

Harris: Right, right. And I think just publicly we’ve got to make sure we’re always talking about the best interests of the state, best interests of the state…

Blagojevich: Right.

Harris: Best interests of the state…

Blagojevich: Right.

Harris: That’s kind of the mantra.


DATE: 11/05/2008
TIME: 11:06 a.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich 

Blagojevich: I called my nephew Alex, he just turned twenty-six today. I said Alex—you know, I call him for his birthday—and I said it’s just too bad you’re not four years older because I could have given you a U.S. Senate seat for your birthday.

Adviser Doug Scofield: Yeah.

Blagojevich: You know what I mean?

Scofield: [laughs] Yeah.

Blagojevich: I mean, I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden.

Scofield: Right.

Blagojevich: And I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing. I’m not going to do it, and I can always use it and fucking parachute me there. You know, there’s life after if I do that.


DATE: 11/05/2008
TIME: 8:58 a.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich 

Harris: Let [the Obama transition team] make the offer. It’s like when you’re bidding on a house.

Blagojevich: Let me hear it.

Harris: It’s kind of like, “How much you want for the house? Tell me how much you’ll give me.” And if they come in low they might insult you. So if they come in and say, “You know, we’ll make you assistant secretary of labor…” Right?

Blagojevich: Mm-hmm.

Harris: Say, “Oh come on. Fuck that.” And then you kinda shut down the negotiations.

Blagojevich: Mm-hmm.

Harris: And then you say, “Yeah, okay fine, I’ll just keep going through with my process.”

Blagojevich: I think I’d rather be a senator.

Harris: Yeah.

Blagojevich: Right?

Harris: I’d rather be a senator.

Blagojevich: Yeah.

Harris: I’ll just continue with my process. And let them come back with a higher bid.

Blagojevich: So you reject the Department of Health and Human Services, or any cabinet position like that. An assistant [cabinet position] you think…oooph, forget that. Let’s go down the pecking order. What would be good? Uh, ambassador to the UN?

Harris: No way.

Blagojevich: Right. Keep going.

Harris: You know, I wouldn’t do any ambassadorships. I mean, Obama would do ambassadorships.

Blagojevich: He would?

Harris: Yeah, I think he’d do ambassadorships.

Blagojevich: Okay. I’m interested. How about India? South Africa? How about India? India’s vital.

Harris: Yeah, India’s vital. I’d say India…

Blagojevich: Is that realistic or would he reject that?

Harris: No, that’s realistic.

Blagojevich: Is it?

Harris: I think so.

Blagojevich: No shit.


DATE:  11/07/2008
TIME:  4:11 p.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich 

Blagojevich: How much would you think a position like that would pay? I mean, again, this requires a lot of travel, it’s a lot of work. A reasonable…

Harris: Well, I mean you’d get an expense account. So it’s not all in pay.

Adviser Fred Yang: Right.

Harris: I mean, the travel is really a function of your expense account.

Blagojevich: And then I’d like to be able to be on some corporate boards and stuff.

Yang: Mm-hmm.

Blagojevich: That doesn’t sound unreasonable does it? For $250,000, $300,000, Fred, for something like that?


DATE: 11/07/2008
TIME: 4:30 p.m.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich 

Blagojevich: Hey, Fred.

Yang: Yes, governor.

Blagojevich: I’d have to figure out a way where this would give me an opportunity for upward mobility financially in my wilderness years, you know.

Yang: Mm-hmm.

Blagojevich: See, this is the greedy part here. In a perfect scenario, you know, I can be in a place where I can make money, have the promise to make more money while at the same time be involved and engaged in a cause or causes that I really believe in that give me a platform to maintain some sort of political viability and the possibility of getting back in. You see what I’m saying?

Yang: Mm-hmm.


DATE: 12/04/2008
TIME: 2:43 p.m.
ACTIVITY:  Rod Blagojevich 

Rod Blagojevich: You know, if this is possible, then some of the stuff has got to start happening now.

Chief fundraiser Robert Blagojevich: Yep.

Rod Blagojevich: Right now.

Robert Blagojevich: Very good.

Rod Blagojevich: And we got to see it.

Robert Blagojevich: Okay.

Rod Blagojevich: You understand? Now you’ve got to be careful how you express that. And assume everybody’s listening, the whole world’s listening.


Rod Blagojevich

From FBI wiretaps. Vowing to reject “the politics of mediocrity and corruption,” Blagojevich was sworn in as Illinois’ fortieth governor in 2003. Five years later, he was arrested for what a U.S. Attorney called “a political corruption crime spree.” In trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, Blagojevich hoped to obtain a position in Obama’s cabinet, a $300,000-a-year job with a union-backed group, or a high-paying position for his wife, among other schemes. In 2011 he was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Four of Illinois’ past ten governors have ended up in federal prison.