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FBI Agent: Illinois High in Running for Most Corrupt State

Actually, the direct quote is much more colorful. During a riveting news conference on the federal corruption charges being brought against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, FBI Special Agent Robert Grant described the state of Illinois politics thusly:

“If [Illinois] isn’t the most corrupt state in the U.S., it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.”

Indeed, U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who you may remember from such criminal investigations as the outing of former CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame, said Blagojevich was involved in “what can only be described as a political crime spree.”

In addition to the charges related to Blagojevich’s alleged conspiracy to “sell” President-elect Barack Obama’s recently vacated Senate seat, as well as an alleged scheme to exchange state money to aid the sale of Wrigley Field for the firing of several members of The Chicago Tribune’s editorial staff, Fitzgerald outlined other plots.

According to Fitzgerald, wiretap recordings revealed that Blagojovich allegedly attempted to secure large campaign contributions from the CEO of a Chicago children’s hospital, after the state awarded an $8 million in funding to the hospital. When the hospital administrator didn’t comply, Fitzgerald said, Blagojevich expressed in recorded telephone conversations a desire to withdraw the state funding from the hospital.

In another instance, Fitzgerald said, Blagojevich sought and received campaign contributions from individuals who supported a bill that would divert a percentage of casino revenue in the state to support horse racing tracks.

Fitzpatrick repeatedly stressed that there are no allegations of the President-elect’s knowledge of any of Blagojevich’s activities.

Perhaps most incredible, Fitzgerald said that the recordings reveal that Blagojevich envisioned a role for himself in the Obama administration, as either the secretary of health and human services or an ambassadorship. Failing that, Fitzgerald said Blagojevich also discussed granting the Senate seat to a labor union-friendly appointee, in exchange for a cushy, highly-paid union position.

And we thought Alaska politics were wacky.

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