Politics

Governor denies feds after him in corruption probe

Thursday, July 03, 2008

For the first time Thursday, Governor Rod Blagojevich insisted publicly that he is "not a target" of federal investigators looking into corruption in his administration.

The trial of Blagojevich's political fundraiser Tony Rezko featured testimony claiming the governor himself suggested his supporters would benefit from giving him campaign contributions. Rezko was convicted of demanding money from companies that were seeking business from the state.

More video: Governor's Full Comments

Typically, the governor's public appearances are carefully scripted, and aides give him a backdoor to leave from if he doesn't like the questions he's asked. Thursday, there was no back door. During a testy 12 minute exchange, Blagojevich called reporters' questions ridiculous, absurd and unfair.

Governor Rod Blagojevich's plan to promote the state's efforts to crack down on gas station owners who cheat customers evaporated faster than fuel fumes on a summer day.

"Why don't you focus on things that really matter to people?" the governor said.

For months, if not longer, almost everywhere the governor goes where the press is present, he is asked about his convicted former fundraiser Tony Rezko and several other indicted members of his administration. Blagojevich claims he has answered every question -- but he hasn't.

BEN BRADLEY: "Governor since you answered it 10-thousand times, what's the answer? How did Rezko wield so much influence?"

BLAGOJEVICH: "I've answered that."

BEN BRADLEY: "What's the answer?"

BLAGOJEVICH: "The answer is the price of gasoline is really high."

The governor said reporters should ask fewer questions of him -- and spend more time poking around City Hall and interrogating Mayor Daley about corruption on his watch. Nonetheless, reporters continued questioning the state's chief executive who suggested he may have been a bit naive about his millionaire fundraiser friend.

"When you operate and assume the best in people and you think -- and have no reason to think they're anything but independently successful and honest, sometimes it tours out evidently they're not," said Blagojevich.

Reporters asked if Blagojevich believes he is in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. "It's a ridiculous question," the governor said.

"Am I a target? I'm probably a target of Mike Madigan's desire to keep us from passing a jobs bill and have a budget that helps people."

Earlier this week, a spokesman for the powerful House Speaker Madigan suggested the governor may fit the definition of a "sociopath." Now, Blagojevich accuses Madigan of bullying a few lawmakers to keep them in line.

"There were two of them who told me they were afraid they'd lose their city job if they voted against their leader for the jobs bill," Blagojevich said.

A spokesman for Speaker Madigan suggested the governor's story about pressure on lawmakers is "another sign of the symptoms the governor is suffering from."

A representative of the U.S. attorney's office declined to confirm or deny Governor Blagojevich's claim that he is not a target of federal investigators.

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