The second count in the federal criminal complaint filed this morning against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich alleges the man in blue’s unhappiness with certain Tribune editorials critical of the governor drove him to the eye-poppingly risky maneuver of attempting to shake down the newspaper. The cmplaint alleges the First Fan threatened to withold state funds for Wrigley Field, dealing them as the reward for firing the responsible editors.
Even when evaluated against historic standards of Chicago political corruption, this act of brinksmanship is beyond the pale. A politically powerful fan extorting team ownership over negative press coverage is one thing. But to shake down a bankrupted newspaper publisher who presumably had working telephones in the building and FBI phone numbers on file is a jaw-dropper.
Beginning no later than November 2008 to the present, in Cook County, in the Northern District of Illinois, defendants ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS, being agents of the State of Illinois, a State government which during a one-year period, beginning January 1, 2008 and continuing to the present, received federal benefits in excess of $10,000, corruptly solicited and demanded a thing of value, namely, the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical of ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with business and transactions of the State of Illinois involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more, namely, the provision of millions of dollars in financial assistance by the State of Illinois, including through the Illinois Finance Authority, an agency of the State of Illinois, to the Tribune Company involving the Wrigley Field baseball stadium; in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 666(a)(1)(B) and 2.
Blagojevioch striking just when the Trib was brought to their knees by Kosuke Fukudome’s contract is not only treason against Cub Nation, it has truly redefined what is possible. Who would have ever believed the Tribune could be painted in a positive light?