Calls mount for disgraced Illinois governor to quit
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich faced pressure to resign on Wednesday after his arrest on charges he tried to sell U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat, swap favors for money and strong-arm a newspaper into firing writers.
Moves boiled up within the state to strip Blagojevich of the power to make the appointment he allegedly tried to barter, either by driving him from office through legal means or letting voters fill the Senate seat with a special election.
Obama, who called the charges against the two-term governor sobering and sad, has had a cool relationship with the fellow Democrat -- who has been under investigation on other issues for years -- although both of their political careers sprouted in the often corrupt seedbed of Chicago politics.
"Among the remarkable facts of the recent Presidential election is that Barack Obama emerged from this political culture virtually untainted -- and with Chicago's political mores all but unexamined by the press," the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial on Wednesday.
"Now would be a good time for the President-elect to say that Mr. Blagojevich and his cronies should have nothing to do with naming Mr. Obama's successor. And that, given the taint of corruption that now hangs over any choice, the state should hold a special Senate election."
The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times newspapers ran nearly full-page editorials demanding the immediate resignation of Blagojevich, who turned 52 on Wednesday.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, resigned from the Senate after winning the November 4 presidential election.
Democrats, with independent allies, will have at least 58 seats in the 100-seat Senate when the new Congress convenes if Obama's successor as Illinois senator is a Democrat.
That might not happen if the matter goes to a special election. A Minnesota Senate seat is still undecided.
After being arrested at home before dawn on Tuesday and then released on his own recognizance without having to post bail, Blagojevich showed no signs of resigning.
He left his stately brick house in Chicago on Wednesday morning under siege by news media but saying nothing.
"It's outrageous," said Beth Pinter, a middle-aged woman who lives a block away and was out walking her two dogs. "He should resign but he won't because he's a sociopath ... I don't want him in my neighborhood because he's a crook."
Prosecutors said Blagojevich was caught on tape using an expletive as he described the Senate seat as something so valuable "you just don't give it away for nothing."
The governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, were charged in a federal complaint with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a second count of solicitation of bribery.
The Tribune said the charges against Blagojevich had visited an unprecedented political crisis on the state.
Because the state constitution gives the governor the sole power to fill Senate vacancies, there were legal questions over how to proceed. Impeachment in the legislature could be a lengthy process of an indictment followed by a trial.
The state's attorney general was exploring a provision that would allow the Illinois supreme court to oust Blagojevich, media reports said.
In the meantime, the governor retains the power to appoint anyone, including himself, to the empty seat, although Senate leaders have said any appointment he makes would be tainted.
Blagojevich's office issued a statement on Tuesday saying the allegations would not affect the functioning of the state.
The federal charges against Blagojevich allege he tried to trade the Senate appointment for personal gain and muscle the Chicago Tribune into firing critical editorial writers by interfering in a deal involving the sale of Wrigley Field, the baseball stadium owned by the paper's parent company.