Illinois AG asks state’s high court to strip Blago of his powers

| 12/12/2008

In the wake of his indictment on federal corruption charges, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the state’s highest court Friday, Dec. 12, to strip Gov. Rod Blagojevich of any gubernatorial powers.

Madigan made her announcement as pressure mounts on the governor to resign following his arrest by the FBI Tuesday, Dec. 9, on charges that included solicitation and bribes.

According to news sources, John Harris, chief of staff for Blagojevich, resigned Friday following his arrest along with the governor.

The attorney general asked the state Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order or an injunction that prevents Blagojevich from carrying his duties out as governor.  On Tuesday, a statement from her office claimed it was “absolutely clear” that the governor was “incapable of governing.”
On Friday, Madigan asked the court to allow the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, to assume the powers of the governor’s office.

The court motion comes three days after a criminal complaint charged Blagojevich with soliciting payments from candidates to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich also is charged with offering political favors to The Chicago Tribune if it would agree to fire certain editors responsible for publishing articles critical of the governor.

Madigan’s decision to pursue action through the court is intended to quicken his removal from office. Impeachment proceedings could take several weeks.

In the meantime, the General Assembly is expected to gather Monday, Dec. 15, to introduce legislation to strip the governor of his privilege to pick a successor for Obama. Lawmakers say they want to let voters decide.

The measure to fill the U.S. Senate seat could clear the statehouse as early as midweek. It would then advance to Blagojevich’s desk. If he remains in office, he would have three options: Sign the bill, veto the bill, or let it become law without his signature – after 60 days.

If the bill is vetoed, the legislature will need to override Blagojevich’s decision to carry out the special election.

Hopeful of avoiding a drawn-out process, leading lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Illinois are calling for Blagojevich to step down. They cite the embarrassment he has brought to the office and his inability to further lead.

“This is perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of Illinois government, and a stain that will not be easily removed,” State Comptroller Dan Hynes said in a written statement.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor