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Impeachment Committee Drives Down Memory Lane

By Hunter Clauss in News on Dec 17, 2008 8:00PM

f24d7774-4b95-4cea-a3fc-a4b2d5dc2578.jpeg.jpgThe impeachment charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be deeply rooted in his past blunders rather than the recent allegations he tried selling, among other things, Barack Obama’s open senate seat. That’s because the impeachment panel most likely understands that they won’t receive cooperation from the FBI, so they’re digging deep in the reservoir of past screw-ups committed under Blagojevich’s watch. The committee, which will outline the rules for impeachment, began its work yesterday under the premise that the governor will receive a fair hearing despite the fact the panel is headed by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who is an ally to Blagojevich nemesis House Speaker Michael Madigan. Currie insists the committee will act in a professional manner. “Frontier justice will not prevail in this proceeding,” Currie told reporters yesterday. “A rush to judgment does not serve the people of the state well.”

While the committee will meet today with Blagojevich’s defense attorney, the Trib reports that the panel is expected to build the case against Blagojevich on previous allegations of “official misconduct, abuse of power and failing to follow state law.” Those acts include Blagojevich’s controversial move during the winter of 2004 -2005 to buy flu vaccines from a British wholesaler before receiving federal approval, which would have made the deal legal. Blagojevich’s plan was sparked by concerns that there would be a shortage of flu shots, but that never happened. It turned out that there were plenty of vaccines, and the ones purchased from the British wholesaler were never used. The whole debacle cost taxpayers $2.6 million.

The impeachment committee is also expected to look at the $1 million grant to Pilgrim Baptist Church that mysteriously wound up at a private school. Blagojevich promised to help rebuild the historic Bronzeville church after a fire gutted it in 2006. The money, however, ended up at Loop Lab School, which rented out space from the church before the fire. Blagojevich said the money ended up at the private school due to bureaucratic mistakes, but Chandra Gill, the director of Loop Lab School, said the governor promised to give her the money. To make the situation even murkier, Gill was a convicted felon who received a speedy pardon from Blagojevich. The private school also didn’t disclose a sexual harassment judgment against it by the Human Rights Commission. In the end, the school never opened because it failed to obtain proper city permits and didn’t measure up to fire safety codes. Blagojevich ordered for the return of the money after he intended to let the school keep it.

If the impeachment committee moves forward and makes its recommendations based on the governor’s past mistakes, then why didn’t they impeachment him years ago? Perhaps this process will be just as much a statement about our state legislature as it is our governor.

Photo by AP.