Illinois Governor Rudy Blagojevich has been indicted [correction 12/14/2008 – charged in a criminal complaint] for many offenses. While the press has focused on the attempt to sell Barack Obama’s open Senate seat, there is a more important aspect of the indictment as relates to Obama’s infrastructure plan.
Paragraphs 36-37 of the Criminal Complaint detail Blagojevich’s extortion of campaign contributions through his control of the Chicago Planning Board, which issued Certificates of Need for medical facility construction. Blagojevich’s unofficial “spokesman” for Planning Board matters was none other than Tony Rezko, whose wife worked a deal to help the Obamas purchase their house and who was a long-time Obama fundraiser.
Blagojevich was a strong proponent of Obama’s infrastructure stimulus plan, and presented a wish list of his pet projects:
Already, Governor Rod Blagojevich has sent Obama’s office a “wish list” detailing nearly 300 construction projects in Illinois that are ready to begin immediately.The list includes improvements to I-57 in Williamson, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. The governor estimates the projects would provide about 1,700 jobs. Also on the wish list is improving Amtrak service across Illinois, including new service to Rockford and the Quad Cities. It’s estimated this project would create about 4,700 jobs.
In light of the wide-ranging scope of Blagojevich’s extortion, is there any doubt that these construction projects would have aided Balgojevich in his corruption? With the power, through control of state agencies and boards, Governors will be the gate keepers of federal insfrastructure dollars. Corrupt governors will become more corrupt, and honest governors will be tempted to use this power for political purposes.
I have warned time and again that throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at public infrastructure projects on short notice under the threat of “use if or lose it” is a prescription for disaster. To the list of cost overruns, incompetence, and mob influence, add political extortion.
Appointing “Czars” is trendy these days. Since Governor Rudy is going to be out of a job soon, the now idle Obama campaign staff can mount a new charge with the remaining $30 million in campaign funds: Rudy for Infrastructure Czar!