Trigger for the Spree?


Last night I mentioned today’s New York Times article that suggests a fairly perverse reading of Obama’s decision last year to lobby for an Illinois state law to tighten up ethics rules to crackdown on pay-for-play deals. The Times suggests this is evidence of Obama’s inability to escape the taint of Chicago politics whereas it seems more reasonably to put him more clearly on the side of reform.

That point aside though, there’s an interesting kernel contained in the Times piece that I’m curious about. The piece suggests that after Obama lobbied and the senate overrode Blagojevich’s veto, the passage of the bill spurred “the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.”

So it was the deadline created by the state ethics bill that Obama helped push through that was the spur for the “spree” of corruption that led Fitzgerald’s prosecutors to get the wiretaps that uncovered the alleged attempted senate seat sale.

Now, a few questions. David Kurtz and I were chatting about this. And it seems at least a bit of a strain to believe that a change in ethics rules could prompt such a wholesale, hog-wild leap into criminality. On the other hand, one could speculate that he wanted to rake in as many iffy contributions as possible before the new year and just went overboard. And this is what the prosecutors’ statement claims. And, frankly, the whole story makes Blagojevich sound a bit unhinged in addition to a lot crooked. So I’m not sure rationality is the best standard through which to understand any of this.

Curious to hear people’s thoughts on this.

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