Impeachment hearing to continue Wednesday

Attorney to appear Wednesday
December 16, 2008 5:22:41 PM PST
The governor has been invited to testify during the impeachment hearings against him in Springfield. Instead, his attorney is reportedly going to take part. Gov. Blagojevich was invited to meet with the bipartisan committee on Wednesday. Instead, he will send his attorney, Ed Genson.

The committee will not make a quick decision, according to the chairperson, House Majority Leader Barbra Flynn Curie of Chicago. On Tuesday, the lawmakers tied up loose ends and the hearing featured more speeches than substance.

"We're not "Alice In Wonderland." We're not the red queen. We do not sentence first and then do the verdict. Illinois frontier days are long past the frontier justice will not prevail in this proceeding," said Rep. Art Turner, (D) Impeachment Committee.

"We must be mindful of the rights of the accused. I remind you that 19 people in this state have been exonerated from death row because there was a rush for judgment," said Rep. Art Turner, (D) Impeachment Committee.

Governor Blagojevich is accused in the articles of impeachment of abusing and misusing his executive power over state government and forfeiting his right to stay in office by allegedly engaging in pay-to-play corruption as outlined in last week's charges.

"This is the most important set of hearings I will have secondary on in my 27 years in the general assembly because it goes to the heart of open and honest government. It's a way for the citizens to reclaim the state of Illinois," said Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Impeachment Committee.

The committee must move slowly until U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald indicates what is on and off limits based on the federal investigation. However, the committee has already invited the governor and his attorney to testify.

"I did," said Flynn Currie. "And apparently he's sending a representative, his lawyer."

"Personally if I was the governor's lawyer, I would not have him testify," said Rep. Jim Durkin, (R) Impeachment Committee.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Senate is appointing a committee of its own to come up with rules for an impeachment trial if it comes to that.

"If the House passed anything, the Senate has to adopt rules and procedures for conducting the trial," said Sen. Emil Jones, (D) Senate President. Jones, one of Blagojevich's strongest allies in Springfield, said he wants the Senate ready to go.

The committee is made up of five Democrats and four Republicans. The GOP members reportedly left upset that they did not get to vote on a special election to fill Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat. The topic never came up. The Democrats said they could not reach a consensus, but the Republicans say the Democrats are afraid if they hold a special election, the Republicans might win.

Impeachment proceedings resume at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Blagojevich working on state business

As the effort to remove the governor continues, the state's chief executive maintains he is still working on state business.

One of the biggest jobs is paying the bills.

And the governor's scandal has affected the state's ability to do that.

The governor and state police security detail left his North Side home on Tuesday morning using the back alley, possibly trying to avoid the reporters and cameras, most of which were camped outside the front yard.

At his Thompson Center office, an aide described Blagojevich's mood as workmanlike as the governor signed into law a bill supporting clean-burning coal technology and reviewed several clemency petitions.

"It's back to doing the business of the people," said Lucio Guerrero, the governor's spokesman.

The governor's office also issued a news release on the Illinois' $1.4 billion bond issu - or loan - to pay overdue state bills. But Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias blamed delays caused in closing the bond deal, caused by Blagojevich's legal problems for an additional $20 million in interest the state must pay.

"Unfortunately they now have to pay what amounts to a corruption tax," said Alexi Giannoulias, Ill. treasurer.

A week after the Federal corruption charges, the governor's world has been reduced to his home, the Thompson Center and his lawyer's office at the historic Monadnock Building. Amid published reports that staff members in Blagojevich's office were considering a mass resignation to protest the governor's refusal to resign, the two spokespeople available Tuesday offered their reactions.

"We're working really hard. People are coming to work every day. I'm not looking for a job right now. We have a job to do and we're trying to do it the best we can," said Kelly Quinn.

"Obviously the events of the past week are a shocking to all of us but we all realize we're professionals. We work for 12 million people, not one person. We all continue to work on behalf of the people of Illinois," said Guerrero.

Nearly a year ago, Governor Rod Blagojevich lost a vote on a proposed business tax hike 107-0. Just after that vote, Blagojevich practically shrugged it off, calling the landslide vote, "an update." After the house voted unanimously to begin impeachment proceedings, the governor's spokesperson called it expected.

Springfield has rarely been kind to Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now, lawmakers there have sent a message with a unanimous vote that is about to get even less friendly.

"All 118 of us are angry. All 118 of us feel betrayed," said State Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.

If the 21-member panel recommends impeachment, it would be the state's first such move against a sitting governor.

Currie, D-Chicago, began the meeting by saying the Blagojevich scandal had created a "crisis of confidence" in state government. But she cautioned panel members against moving too fast.

"Let us remember that we're not Alice in Wonderland. We're not the Red Queen. We do not sentence first and then do the verdict," she said. "Frontier justice will not prevail in this proceeding. A rush to judgment does not serve the people of the state well."

The House committee will eventually make a recommendation on whether to impeach to the full House, which would then decide whether to file charges against the governor. Then the Senate would hold hearings and ultimately make a ruling.

"In light of what we have all seen - you have been here just as much as I have been here - How can anyone be surprised?" said State Rep. Michael Madigan, (D) House Speaker.

Madigan said the committee's review will include the criminal charges against Blagojevich as well as a long list of other possible wrongdoing during his six years in office: abuse of power, taking action without legal authority, ignoring state laws and defying lawful requests for information from the General Assembly.

The committee may well work through the holiday season, but it's not clear how long it will take to produce a recommendation. That depends partly on whether the governor's legal team takes part by questioning witnesses and presenting evidence, which would significantly lengthen the process.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor. The House would decide whether to file charges against the governor, and the Senate would ultimately rule on them.

While there was unanimity on the need for impeachment hearings, House Republicans are angry. Democratic Speaker Madigan is putting off a vote on whether to hold a special election to fill Barack Obama's spot in the U.S. Senate. It would be the Republicans' only route to winning the seat.

"One-party rule, that's what's wrong with Illinois, one-party rule!" yelled State Rep. Bill Black, (R) Danville.

Back in Chicago, the governor continued his dance with the press and public.

"I can't wait to talk to you guys and have a chance to be able to say the things I'm looking forward to saying. There is a time and place for all of that," Blagojevich said.

The governor has been going to two places with regularity over the last week - the Thompson Center in Chicago and the office of his newly hired attorney, Ed Genson, who describes the case against the governor as a snowball rolling downhill so fast it's become an avalanche.

"The case that I have seen so far is significantly exaggerated. It's just not, it's not what people think it is," Genson said.

Genson only smiled when asked about the speculation that his defense could include the suggestion that Governor Blagojevich only engaged in colorful talk but never actually did anything criminal.

"We have been talking for how many years about this? I very rarely have an insignificant challenge," Genson said.

And of the cost of the corruption scandal, the state treasurer says the state had to pay nearly $1 million in higher interest rates on a borrowing package that was deferred the day the governor was charged.

"The bottom line is, the longer this mess continues, the worse it is for the state of Illinois," State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said.

The state treasurer also said that sometime Tuesday he fully expects two of three credit rating agencies that rate states across the country to downgrade the state of Illinois.

Some have suggested that the governor wants to remain in office because he needs the paycheck. The governor has earned $3,400 in wages since he was charged last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments