Blagojevich case about actions not just words

Posted: Jun. 29, 2011 10:42 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 10:42 am


FORMER Gov. Rod Blagojevich's own words, from wiretapped conversations, convinced jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of 17 of the 20 felony corruption charges.

After the verdicts were read Monday a "stunned" Blagojevich gave an uncharacteristically brief interview and said he has learned to speak a little less due to his trial experience.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said it was Blagojevich's crimes that demanded justice -- not his words alone. The prosecutor who also was responsible for the corruption conviction of former Gov. George Ryan said he hopes the "message is heard this time" that political corruption will not be tolerated in Illinois.

That hope is shared by millions of Illinois residents, who are angered by the misdeeds of Blagojevich, Ryan and previously jailed governor's Dan Walker and Otto Kerner, as well as a host of other disgraced politicians. Those citizens are the first line of defense against political corruption, using their votes to support worthy candidates and reject those who break the law.

Law enforcement officials, such as Fitzgerald, are needed as well. Their job is to root out the law-breakers and bring them to justice.

For the system to work, government workers and elected officials also must refuse to tolerate illegal acts and be willing to report violations. In this way the insiders can keep faith with the taxpayers for whom they work, as witnesses for investigators and prosecutors.

Illinois legislators have taken some action on ethics reforms in the past few years. Even before Blagojevich's indictment in December 2008, some limits were placed on political donations from those doing business with the state. Lobbyists and politicians now must report gifts that once were not open to public inspection.

Even with reforms and a unified front against political corruption, laws will be broken. People whose ambition, or ego, overrule ethical considerations will not be deterred by laws.

Blagojevich's reaction to his conviction is instructive of a certain mindset.

He spent days on the witness stand in an effort to build a positive image with jurors. He explained away his wiretapped words as evidence of insecurities and bravado.

After jurors rejected his defense, Blagojevich pledged to speak less -- hinting that his words got him in trouble.

As long as felons such as Blagojevich fail to see the error of their actions, the "message" that Illinois will not tolerate such crimes will fall on deaf ears. It will be even more important that everyone with a sense of right and wrong do their part to stop the criminals.

Rod Blagojevich's legacy as a corrupt politician is now historic fact.

It will take the collective efforts of the rest the state to assure that the culture of Illinois politics is not similarly tainted for all time.


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