Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Blago’s new groove: published author

Ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose corruption case put the national spotlight on big male hair and crooked Chicago politics, has reinvented himself as the author of a book that claims to offer insights into White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s political ambitions.

BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/Blagojevich, who faces trial after allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, says in the book, “The Governor,” that Emanuel asked him for help in reclaiming his congressional seat after two years with the Obama administration, according to NBC News.

Emanuel, who entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002 as the Democratic representative for the North Side of Chicao, apparently hoped to regain his seat in the 2010 congressional elections. 

NBC said an Emanuel spokesman declined comment. 

The Chicago Tribune’s account of the new Blagojevich book says the former governor blames overzealous prosecutors and political enemies for his spectacular downfall.
He also says his guiding light in selecting a new senator to replace Obama was the question: “How much do I love the people of Illinois?”

He wound up choosing Democrat Roland Burris,  the book says, because of Burris’ famously big ego — no one but him would accept the appointment and fight to be seated under the circumstances, according to the Tribune. 

Romney rakes in the dough, gives generously

USA-POLITICS/Former, and perhaps future, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney raked in some serious cash — $1.6 million — for his political action committee during the first half of 2009, despite the recession.

Romney, who dropped out of the 2008 presidential campaign after poor showings in the early primaries despite raising huge sums of money, is considered one of the untainted potential candidates for 2012. Problems saddling fellow Republicans like outgoing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Nevada Senator John Ensign have put their presidential aspirations in question.

In addition to trying to stockpile some cash in case he decides he will make another White House bid, Romney donated $5,000 to Missouri Republican Representative Roy Blunt, who is running for Senate in 2010, and Republican Bob McDonnell, who is seeking Virginia’s governorship.

Sen. Burris won’t run in 2010

BURRIS-SENATE/ILLINOISAfter just a few months in office and having fiercely resisted calls for his resignation, Illinois Senator Roland Burris has decided Congress is not his calling after all.The Chicago Democrat appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama plans to announce on Friday he won’t seek election to a full six-year term in 2010. Word leaked out a day early, with sources in Chicago and Washington confirming Burris’ plans to forgo the midterm election.The Chicago Sun-Times broke the news, reporting that Burris had raised only about $20,000 toward what undoubtedly would have been a very expensive campaign. The newspaper also quoted a source as saying that Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, was concerned about his legacy.He entered office under a big cloud that never cleared. Burris was appointed on Dec. 30 by former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who later was impeached and indicted on corruption charges — including trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat.Burris escaped a perjury charge last month when prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence aganist him. Burris declared his appointment “perfectly legal” and said he had never offered the ousted governor anything.For more Reuters political news, click here.Photo credit: Reuters/Frank Polich (Burris reacts to audience applause after speaking at a Chicago, church in  March)

The First Draft: Wednesday, Jan. 7

USA-OBAMABarack Obama can expect questions about his plans to stimulate the flagging economy, his controversial choice of Leon Panetta for CIA chief and the war in Gaza at a mid-morning news conference.

Later, the president-elect lunches with President George W. Bush and all three living former presidents: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. A planned photo op in the White House Rose Garden before lunch seems likely to be a damp affair — cold rain expected for most of the day. Still, it’s better than weather elsewhere in the United States: reports of snow in the Northwest and ice in the Northeast led morning TV newscasts today.

On Capitol Hill, more wrangling over whether to seat Illinois’ Roland Burris, who was spectacularly turned away from the Senate floor on Tuesday. Already, a couple Democrats — Dianne Feinstein of California and reportedly Jim Clyburn of South Carolina — are breaking ranks and saying Burris should be allowed to take over Obama’s former seat. The fact that Burris was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is charged with earlier trying to sell the Senate seat, is at the heart of the controversy.