Former Blagojevich spokesperson breaks silence

February 23, 2009 9:00:30 AM PST
For the first time, a key advisor to impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is providing an insider's account of life inside the administration after Blagojevich's arrest.ABC7 Chicago's Ben Bradley interviewed Blagojevich in July 2008:

Bradley: "Governor, since you answered it 10,000 times, what's the answer? How did Rezko wield so much influence?"

Blagojevich: "I've answered that!"

Bradley: "What's the answer?"

Blagojevich: "The answer is the price of gasoline is very high."

The day that interview took place was one of Lucio Guerrero's first days on the job as a spokesperson for the former governor. Plans for a feel-good press conference on the governor's efforts to save motorists money evaporated faster than fuel fumes on a summer day.

"It's a ridiculous question!" Blagojevich said to reporters during that news conference.

"This was a guy who had an image problem and really needed help, and I felt like I could help him," Guerrero told ABC7 Chicago.

Guerrero's reputation recovery plan hit a brick wall on December 9 2008, the day FBI agents arrested Rod Blagojevich.

"After the arrest, we wanted to get him out at least once a week to give his side. Everyone was hearing from the feds, snippets of the tapes, the response and not hearing from him directly," said Guerrero.

In the days after his arrest, Blagojevich began to do something aides said was unusual: he showed-up for work everyday at his downtown office at the Thompson Center.

"He was focused. He wanted normalcy back in his life. He was looking for ways to make it happen. He was focused on state government. We did some clemency things, state functions he could only do," Guerrero said.

And then came December 30, 2008, when Blagojevich announced he was appointing Roland Burris as the next United States senator from Illinois."

When asked if the Senate appointment was part of a strategy to send a message," Guerrero responded, "No, I think the Senate pick was more or less keeping up with business as usual; 'I'm still the governor.' When the General Assembly decided they weren't going to pass a bill to let the people decide, then he decided, 'I'm going to do this.'"

As the state House moved to impeach the governor, Guerrero says Blagojevich never gave serious consideration to resigning. On the day the Senate trial convened, Blagojevich began a media blitz that his press secretary advised against. The former governor's spokesman stayed back in Chicago while Blagojevich traveled across the country, and like the rest of Illinois, watched the spectacle unfold on live television.

Now, Guerrero, like his former boss, is out of work. The two men have not spoken since the day the governor was removed from office.

"I think it's hard for him. He likes to be out there...For better or worse, he likes to do things for people, and I think he probably misses the spotlight," said Guerrero.

Lucio Guerrero was a reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times for many years before transitioning into political public relations.

Why take a job with a governor everyone new was under investigation? Guerrero says it was the pinnacle of managing crisis communications, a sought after skill in the corporate world. That's assuming having the name "Blagojevich" on your resume is not a deal-breaker.