Political reaction: No joy, but Blagojevich had it coming
By Dave McKinney Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief December 7, 2011 2:22PM
illinois Governor Pat Quinn enters the press conference to make a public statement at the Thompson Center. about the 14 year sentence given to former illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges. Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
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Updated: December 7, 2011 9:55PM
SPRINGFIELD — From Rod Blagojevich’s former Republican rival to the Democrat who helped drive his impeachment, Illinois’ political elite pitied the ex-governor’s children Wednesday but agreed his stiff prison sentence was deserved.
“Justice was served by the sentence meted out by the judge today,” Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters. “It’s very regrettable what happened to Rod Blagojevich as governor. The jury spoke and so did the judge today. I think the people of Illinois . . . feel let down. I was his running mate, and I think he let me down like he let down the people of Illinois. When you betray a trust, that’s a serious crime, and I think the sentence magnifies how important it is not to have that ever happen again,” the governor said.
State GOP Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who lost the 2006 election to Blagojevich, called the sentence right.
“I take no joy in seeing any father taken from his children and family for an extended period of time. And yet there is no question in my mind that it is the right decision given the extraordinary damage Blagojevich caused our state, and the importance of sending a clear and unmistakable message that corruption will not be tolerated in our government,” she said.
“Rod Blagojevich ran as a reformer and proved to be worse than anything that came before him,” she said.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who helped drive Blagojevich’s Senate trial that ended with a 59-0 impeachment vote, said the sentence closes a terrible chapter in state government.
“I feel sorry for the Blagojevich family during this difficult time. My role in this process began and ended with the impeachment and removal of Rod Blagojevich. While I take no joy in Blagojevich’s sentence, I trust that the criminal court system administered justice fairly,” Cullerton said.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whom Blagojevich said he had considered appointing to Illinois’ vacant U.S. Senate seat in a bid to curry favor with her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), said the sentence won’t undo the harm the ex-governor did to the state’s reputation.
“Based on his convictions — for numerous crimes he was caught on tape committing during just one six-week period — Blagojevich deserves a lengthy prison sentence. Unfortunately, though, it cannot fix the damage he inflicted on our state over his six years as governor,” the attorney general said.
“Blagojevich became governor by promising ethical reform, but from the start, he relentlessly used his position to pursue illegal and morally bankrupt schemes motivated by power and greed,” she said.
“Blagojevich refused to govern responsibly and, instead, put Illinois up for sale. He tarnished the state’s reputation nationally and internationally, and he destroyed the public’s trust in government. May today’s sentence put an end to corruption in the Illinois’ governor’s office,” Madigan said.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Blagojevich’s 14-year prison term should stand as a cautionary tale for other office holders lured by the temptation of greed.
“Judge Zagel’s sentence is a clear warning to all elected officials that public corruption of any form will not be tolerated. Illinois families have long suffered from an estimated $500 million hidden corruption tax. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has done a great service to Illinois by bringing two criminal governors to justice,” Kirk said.
Blagojevich’s chief legislative ally during his six-year stint as governor offered no public solace Wednesday for his one-time friend. Former Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), now chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority board, declined comment on the ex-governor’s sentence, a spokesman said.