An Open Secret?

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Kwame Raoul, who succeeded President-elect Obama in his state senate seat, is now coming forward to say that he too got the shake-down from Gov. Blagojevich as he sought appoint to the two remaining years of Obama’s federal senate term. Raoul says he withdrew his name from further consideration because he was spooked by the governor’s ask. But the more interesting part of the article describing Raoul’s story in the Times is his suggestion that it was an open secret that Blagojevich was looking for a pay-off of some sort …

The state senator, Kwame Raoul, who represents the South Side of Chicago, offered few details of his interaction with the governor’s office but said he received a call about a month ago confirming that he was under consideration. Soon afterward, however, Mr. Raoul said he ran head-on into another message: that the governor was looking for a candidate who offered something of tangible value to him.

“It was open knowledge among people in and around Springfield,” Mr. Raoul said. “Legislators and lobbyists alike openly talked about the fact that the governor would want to appoint somebody who would benefit him. I can firmly say that I’ve had these conversations, that I’ve spoken with both legislators and lobbyists who felt that that would be the consideration in his appointment.”

Mr. Raoul would not specifically say what the content of the conversations were, or whom they were with, except that the initial inquiry from the governor’s office was made by Victor Roberson, deputy director for intergovernmental affairs. Interest in his candidacy died on both sides, Mr. Raoul said, adding, “Obviously, the perception was that I didn’t have anything to give other than my service.”

There’s a little wiggle room there. There’s horse trading and then there’s little for some sort of personal pay off. And Raoul’s comments are ambiguous as to what was common knowledge. But this does suggest that you not have needed to be the FBI agents listening to the wiretaps to know what was up.

Late Update: TPM Reader JP says that Raoul’s words are far more ambiguous than I suggest. Many governors in a position to appoint someone to the senate would want to appoint someone who would ‘benefit’ them. As in, strengthen them politically, be a way to reward friends, have someone loyal in Washington, etc. If we’re looking at the words themselves, I’d agree. But I think we need to look at the context in which Raoul knew he was saying these things. I think he must have been aware he was suggesting more than that, even not quite the boffo level of corruption revealed on the tapes.

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