Although some Illinois lawmakers have promised to fast-track Governor Rod Blagojevich's impeachment, the House impeachment panel has not even heard any of the recorded conservations that make up the bulk of the prosecutor's evidence against the governor. The panel has also not taken testimony from individuals subject to those conversation, and it remains unclear when or if such individuals will testify before lawmakers (due to the prosecutor's objection). A federal judge, however, will soon determine which among the volume of recorded conversation to release to the panel.
Ironically, while the public controversy has surrounded the alleged selling of the vacant Senate seat, the prosecutor wants to limit the impeachment panel's access to a short series of conversations which do not even relate to that matter. Specifically, the prosecutor wishes to release just four recordings in which Blagojevich allegedly promises to support legislation in exchange for a campaign donation.
For those of you who may find it shocking that a public official can be arrested for supporting legislation favored by campaign donors, you are not alone. But the response by the Illinois legislature to the charges against Blagojevich has been as messy as the behavior in which he allegedly engaged.
Although lawmakers uniformly blasted Blagojevich when the scandal broke, they refused to strip him of the power to fill the Senate seat, because the alternative -- a special election -- might have led to a Republican victory. So much for putting the state ahead of personal interests. Instead, they asked the Illinois Supreme Court to engage in a bizarre "judicial impeachment" by declaring Blagojevich unfit to perform his duties as governor. When the court wisely rejected this undemocratic invitation and Blagojevich cynically (but shrewdly) selected Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat, legislators decided to speed things up -- with or without compelling evidence of misconduct.
And while a court attempts to decide which of Blagojevich's recorded conversations the impeachment panel can hear, one lawmaker on the panel promised to "forge ahead" with or without the recordings if the judge takes too long to make a decision. Yes, it is such a shame that due process sometimes gets in the way of doing business quickly.
To make matters worse, the impeachment panel has already secretly drafted and reviewed a memorandum outlining the case to impeach Blagojevich -- even though it has not reviewed any of the recordings or interviewed material witnesses. The panel neglected to inform Blagojevich's lawyers about the meeting.
After hearing all of this, I wonder who, if anyone, in Illinois politics can claim the moral high ground. Right now, it looks like Blagojevich is in good company.