Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: email@example.com
"If it isn't the most corrupt state, it's certainly one hell of a competitor." -- Robert Grant, FBI, 12/9/08
Rod Blagojevich is the fourth Illinois governor in as many decades to be indicted. Two went to prison for abusing their office, including Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan.
Ironically, Blagojevich was lobbying for President Bush to pardon Ryan just last month. And Blagojevich owes his career -- or the lucky breaks that made his career possible -- to corruption.
The dysfunction of the Illinois Republican Party in the wake of the corruption scandal that plagued Ryan led to Blagojevich's election in 2002 -- the first election of a Democrat to the Illinois governorship in more than 30 years. Continued dysfunction and the bad name of the Illinois GOP allowed Blagojevich's reelection in 2006, despite low approval ratings.
Blagojevich also was positioned for the governorship due to the corruption of others. Dan Rostenkowski, the longime chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, lost his seat in 1994 and eventually went to prison due to corruption charges. Rostenkowski lost to a nonentity named Michael Patrick Flanagan.
Flanagan was a ripe target in the overwhelmingly Democratic district in 1996. Blagojevich beat two rivals in the party primary, thanks to support from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Alderman Richard Mell, one of Chicago's last strong ward leaders -- and Blagojevich's father-in-law.
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