Blagojevich is in the spotlight - again

April 3, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's a position he seems to relish.

"I feel it's a modest way for me to serve my country, the United States of America, as I leave the country that my father came from," said Blagojevich in 1999 while on a trip to Serbia.

He basked in the national spotlight, standing next to the Reverend Jesse Jackson as they worked for the release of American prisoners of war. Before that trip, his political exposure had all been local.

Blagojevich was elected to the Illinois Congress - with the help of his powerful father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Dick Mell, in 1992. He soon set his sights on the governor's office.

With the term of Republican Governor George Ryan disintegrating under scandal, Blagojevich was again in the spotlight when Illinois elected a Democratic governor for the first time in decades.

In 2002, he promised to end "business as usual" in state government, but questions were soon raised about tollway concession contracts given to his campaign contributors. He was re-elected in 2006.

In his second term as governor, Blagojevich's relations with legislative leaders soured. There was constant talk of federal investigations even as his campaign fundraisers, Tony Rezko and Stuart Levine, were indicted in a kickback scheme.

Rod Blagojevich's name was prominent during those cases, but he was not charged. And, he continually professed his innocence.

Then, in early December 2008, U.S. Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald announced the charges of corruption.

"Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree," said Fitzgerald.

Blagojevich was then once again in the national eye. He was named in a criminal complaint for scheming to sell a U.S. Senate seat and forcing contributors to "pay-to-play". Instead of resigning his office, Blagojevich went jogging -- and then to the surprise of many -- went on a national media blitz.

"I think you're taking something like that out of context," said Blagojevich during an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters. After the interview, his famous hairdo was mussed up by other personalities on ABC's show The View. He went on to chat with CNN's Larry King, where he once again professed innocence. He wasn't embarrassed by anything the hosts had to say.

"Did you see the guy? He was everywhere. He looks like the guy who tells you you need new break pads, you know?" said David Letterman on his late night TV show.

Weeks later, Blagojevich went on a second media tour in the Big Apple.

"I've always wanted to be on the David Letterman show in the worst way," said Gov. Blagojevich.

"You are here in the worst way," said Letterman.

Blagojevich had added to the political outrage in Springfield and Washington when he went ahead and filled President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat with Roland Burris.

"Don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man," said Blagojevich about Burris.

While Springfield planned his impeachment trial, Blagojevich ignored the proceedings, until the last day, January 29, 2009, when he appeared before the body that voted 59-0 to remove him from office. He remained defiant.

"The means are legal, cause if they're not, then the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Kansas, and Ted Kennedy and Rahm Emanuel and John McCain ought to be co-conspirators with me," said Blagojevich, on January 29, 2009.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.