In the political corruption “crime spree” investigation
involving Governor Blagojevich and machine style politics, the feds are
trying to unravel who knew what and when. Couple of things about that,
things we’re not hearing much.

One is the name of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Hardly heard. At least in the press outside Chicago. WSJ noticed.

The arrest last week of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
revived the old image of Chicago as a city sullied by graft at a time
when the city’s mayor has been traveling the world to project a clean
new one.

As U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald closed in last month on the
governor’s alleged plan to sell off President-elect Barack Obama’s
Senate seat, Mayor Richard M. Daley was introducing the city to a
gathering of European Olympic officials in Istanbul. Promoting the
city’s bid for the 2016 games, Mr. Daley showed a video with shots of
the city’s lakefront beaches, shiny skyscrapers and neighborhood
festivals. It was called Chicago Surprises.

Yes, the city is full of them.

Another headline for this piece could be ‘Daley tries to sell Chicago. It’s already been bought.’

Daley’s outstanding team effort to get the Olympics in Chicago got a
big boost when Obama was elected with grandiosity, and now folks around
here are worrying that it took a bit hit when Blagojevich was charged
with notoriety. Daley, for the most part, has been quiet.

So, too, has Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which is the other point.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Wednesday that Emanuel
had privately urged Blagojevich’s administration to appoint Obama
confidant Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat that Obama vacated when he
was elected president November 4.

Okay, that’s within the bounds of expected communication, since
Obama does have a vested interest in that senate seat he occupied and
in who succeeds him in it.

Emanuel…had asked the appointment to be made by a certain deadline, the newspaper said.

Doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that, either. But because
some of those conversations were picked up in the wiretaps, and some of
the press are asking questions…

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod strongly backed
Emanuel on MSNBC a day after Obama refused to answer a question about
the case at a news conference because the U.S. attorney has the case
under investigation.

“I’ve known Rahm … for a very long time. I’ve worked with him
closely. He is someone who I think has enormous integrity and
unparalleled skill. And I think we’re lucky to have him,” Axelrod said.
“I have no concerns about Rahm. He is an enormous asset to us and will
be an enormous asset to the country, as he has been in the Congress.”

That’s a lot of rhetoric about niceties and generalities. What’s it got to do with this investigation?

Obama says he is eager to clear up doubts about his staff.

He said he had no contact with Blagojevich about the Senate seat and any discussions his team had were not inappropriate.

Okay, that’s a technicality, and the choice of words here is key.

Discussing the Senate seat would not be illegal. But it
is unclear whether Emanuel or Jarrett, who removed herself from
consideration for the Senate seat, knew Blagojevich was seeking a
financial reward from whomever was picked.

And that’s where the press tends to leave it. But why did Jarrett
suddenly remove herself when she did, if not because Blagojevich
attached some conditions to naming her, and the Obama team wouldn’t
‘pay to play’? The wiretap transcript proves Blagojevich complained
that the only thing Obama’s team was willing to give him was
“appreciation”. So he presumably made his conditions known, and they
were rejected. Which would have made Emanuel or Jarrett aware that
Blagojevich was seeking a reward.

Which would have compelled them to report the governor’s illicit
behavior. Which they did not. So Obama’s claim that “any discussions
his team had were not inappropriate” may well be true, but it’s the
discussion they didn’t have with federal investigators that may cause problems for Obama.

There are no doubt more surprises to come. The best one of all would be if Chicago were still able to snare the Olympics.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....