Rarely do we see the behind-the-scenes maneuvers when it comes to government and the sports business, but this arrest of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has done just this. A criminal complaint containing, among other things, charges related to public funding for Wrigley Field was posted over at the Volokh Conspiracy. According to the complaint, the public funding was being used as a threat to get the Tribune Company to fire journalists who weren’t friendly to Blagojevich. I post the entire complaint from VC below since most of it, in one way or another, deals with the Cubs.
From the government’s criminal complaint against Gov. Blagojevich (some paragraph breaks added):
13…. b. Defendants Rod Blagojevich and John Harris, together with others, offered to, and threatened to withhold from, the Tribune Company substantial state financial assistance in connection with Wrigley Field, which assistance Rod Blagojevich believed to be worth at least $100 million to the Tribune Company, for the private purpose of inducing the controlling shareholder of the Tribune Company to fire members of the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper owned by the Tribune Company, who were responsible for editorials critical of Rod Blagojevich ….
69. Intercepted phone calls reflect that Rod Blagojevich and John Harris, together with others, are corruptly using and threatening to use the powers of Rod Blagojevich’s office as Governor of the State of Illinois to exert financial pressure on the owners of the Tribune Company, the parent corporation of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, to fire Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were responsible for editorials sharply critical of Rod Blagojevich’s actions as Governor and, among other things, calling for his impeachment…..
72. On the evening of November 3, 2008, Rod Blagojevich talked to Deputy Governor A. Rod Blagojevich stated that he was concerned about possibly being impeached in the Spring and that the Chicago Tribune will be “driving” the impeachment discussion. Rod Blagojevich asked Deputy Governor A to check to see if the Tribune has recently “advocate[d]” that he be impeached. In fact, the Chicago Tribune recently had published editorials critical of Rod Blagojevich.
73. In another call between Rod Blagojevich and Deputy Governor A that occurred a short time later on November 3, 2008, Rod Blagojevich and Deputy Governor A discussed an editorial from the Chicago Tribune regarding the endorsement of Michael Madigan and calling for a committee to consider impeaching Rod Blagojevich. During the call, Rod Blagojevich’s wife can be heard in the background telling Rod Blagojevich to tell Deputy Governor A “to hold up that fucking Cubs shit… fuck them.” Rod Blagojevich asked Deputy Governor A what he thinks of his wife’s idea. Deputy Governor A stated that there is a part of what Rod Blagojevich’s wife said that he “agree[s] with.” Deputy Governor A told Rod Blagojevich that Tribune Owner will say that he does not have anything to do with the editorials, “but I would tell him, look, if you want to get your Cubs thing done get rid of this Tribune.”
Later, Rod Blagojevich’s wife got on the phone and, during the continuing discussion of the critical Tribune editorials, stated that Tribune Owner can “just fire” the writers because Tribune Owner owns the Tribune. Rod Blagojevich’s wife stated that if Tribune Owner’s papers were hurting his business, Tribune Owner would do something about the editorial board. Rod Blagojevich then got back on the phone. Rod Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A to put together the articles in the Tribune that are on the topic of removing Rod Blagojevich from office and they will then have someone, like John Harris, go to Tribune Owner and say, “We’ve got some decisions to make now.”
Rod Blagojevich said that “someone should say, ‘get rid of those people.’” Rod Blagojevich said that he thinks that they should put this all together and then have Harris or somebody go talk to the Tribune owners and say, “Look, we’ve got decisions to make now … moving this stuff forward (believed to be a reference to the IFA helping with the Cubs sale) … someone’s gotta go to [Tribune Owner], we want to see him … it’s a political fuckin’ operation in there.” Deputy Governor A agreed and said that Harris needs to be “sensitive” about how he does it.
Rod Blagojevich said there is nothing sensitive about how you do it and that it’s “straight forward” and you say “we’re doing this stuff for you, we believe this is right for Illinois [and] this is a big deal to [Tribune Owner] financially” but what Rod Blagojevich is doing to help Tribune Owner is the same type of action that the Tribune is saying should be the basis for Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. Rod Blagojevich said Tribune Owner should be told “maybe we can’t do this now. Fire those fuckers.”
Deputy Governor A suggested that Rod Blagojevich say, “I’m not sure that we can do this anymore because we’ve been getting a ton of these editorials that say, look, we’re going around the legislature, we gotta stop and this is something the legislature hasn’t approved. We don’t want to go around the legislature anymore.” Rod Blagojevich agreed and said that he wants Harris to go in and make that case, “not me.” Deputy Governor A agreed and said that he likes it. Rod Blagojevich asked Deputy Governor A to put the list of Tribune articles together….
76…. Rod Blagojevich stated that “our recommendation is fire all those fucking people, get ‘em the fuck out of there and get us some editorial support.”
There’s a good deal more factual detail in the complaint — have a look if you’re interested. Thanks to Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics for the pointer.
Cross-posted over at Market Power.