I-Team Report: Plan B-Rod

September 1, 2010 9:11:28 PM PDT
Records obtained from Rod Blagojevich's first campaign for Illinois governor reveal an unusual plan to win over black voters.

Before Rod Blagojevich was investigated, impeached, tossed out of office, convicted of lying and headed to retrial, he was a candidate stumping for votes. And there was a campaign strategy put in writing for Mr. Blagojevich to win black votes. It could only be called "Plan B-Rod."

Celebrity infielder Alex Rodriguez is known as A-Rod; political outfielder Rod Blagojevich is B-Rod. Or at least that is how Mr. Blagojevich was to be marketed in the black community, according to campaign documents, some marked confidential, from 2002.

If "you can't say my last name" Blagojevich was to tell black audiences, "just call me 'B-Rod.'"

"It's nuts, it's crazy, it's dumb. And, it's insulting more than anything else, insulting," said Prof. Robert Starks, Northeastern Illinois University.

The racially-charged plan was found in one of the hundreds of boxes retrieved last month from a suburban storage facility. The Friends of Blagojevich campaign committee had packed up the material but couldn't pay for storage after Blagojevich was thrown out office.

"Plan B-Rod" didn't list an author but is believed to have been written by a political field operative befriended by Blagojevich in 2002. It called for creating "B-Rod" as a name that was "user friendly in the African American community."

"They've seen too many 'my-man's' and phony stuff coming from white people and I think it turns them off more than anything else," said Don Rose, political consultant.

The storage records were auctioned two weeks ago and the I-Team found the "Plan B-Rod" record inside a box marked "Lon," referring to Blagojevich's then campaign chairman Lon Monk, who went on to be his state chief of staff. Monk pleaded guilty in the federal corruption case brought against his once law school roommate.

The I-Team went to Monk's downstate home for an explanation of "Plan B-Rod" but the doors were closed when we arrived. Neither he nor his lawyer would comment for this report.

The governor did command substantial black support during both elections. And he frequently played up his participation with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the release of American prisoners of war in Serbia. "Plan B-Rod" called for Blagojevich to use that episode as the basis for helping "develop his 'home-boy' persona." The message: "home boy brought soldiers back".

"All he had to say was 'I was Iwith Reverend Jackson when the soldiers came back from Serbia,' that's all he had to say. People know that. I mean, homeboy brought the soldiers back? Insane?.he didn't bring them back. They brought them back. He was on the trip with them," said Prof. Robert Starks, Northeastern Illinois University.

"How does a white guy from a totally different part of town, a totally different culture become a homeboy? " said Rose.

"To think that African-Americans have to have this special, you know, almost 'ghettoized' approach...He was a bit vain, let's face it, anyone who wears Oxxford suits, two-three thousand dollar suits, had special combs for his hair, wore very excellent shoes, you know, there's no homeboy in him," said Starks.

"Plan B-Rod" made it all the way up the Blagojevich chain of command. While sources familiar with the plan say it was quickly scuttled as a whole, some of it was implemented, including the use of B-Rod campaign teams on the South and West Sides and in the south suburbs. We asked former governor Blagojevich's public relations agency about plan B-Rod and were told that Blagojevich is aware of our request but not doing any interviews right now.


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