Monday, January 12, 2009

A Winter Reading Recommendation: The Blagojevich Impeachment Report.

I just finished reading the “Final Report of the Special Investigative Committee,” the Illinois House of Representatives committee that recommended Governor Rod Blogojevich’s impeachment last week.

I recommend it, especially if you are a citizen of Illinois. Yes, it has been in all the papers, but I got a lot out of reading the actual report.

You can find it, in PDF format, here.

Just so you know, the PDF logs in at 78 pages, and the body of the report is about 60 pages. That’s what you need to read. It is written in the form of a legal brief but it is very well written and easy to follow. No special knowledge is required to understand it. Whoever drafted it did a very good job.

It is well-known that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been at odds with the governor for some time. It is easy, following their battles in the media, to assume it is all just the usual political maneuvering: power plays, jockeying for position, trying to influence public opinion. You get a very different picture from the report. Its drafters also took pains, while making liberal use of the U.S. Attorney’s criminal complaint against the governor, to also document abuses of authority and violations of state and federal law, committed by him, that play no part in the U.S. Attorney’s complaint. (There are concerns that the impeachment investigation might compromise the federal criminal investigation.)

Anyone who believes it is just about the governor’s alleged attempt to sell President-Elect Obama’s former senate seat will be disabused of that notion quickly.

Some of these offenses date back to 2002-2003, which is disturbing in itself, as I don’t recall them being raised during the 2006 election campaign, when he won his second term. It should disturb every Illinois citizen that these abuses were all public knowledge, to a greater or lesser extent, and little action was taken to prevent them or stop them, or really raise a red flag about them. While the report is excellent and the House is to be commended for taking the action that it has, it took the U.S. Attorney’s arrest of the governor and issuance of the criminal complaint, with the resulting national publicity, to bring everything to a head and force the legislature to take action.

The first part of the report does a great job of explaining impeachment. The body of the case against Governor Blagojevich begins on page nine. If you feel you have a good handle on the senate seat issue, start reading at page 17. If you just can’t manage the whole thing, cherry pick from the table of contents. Some of the charges that come late in the report are the most interesting, and have been reported the least. I found the tale of the Governor’s Agency Efficiency Initiatives (starting on page 43) especially riveting.

So put a log on the fire, curl up in a comfortable chair, and dig in. Or, perhaps, if you have a family, take turns reading aloud from it around the dinner table. It’s a teaching moment, for sure.

Except for some of the language, sanitized in the report for your protection, it is all G-rated.

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