We've had the Summer of Love and the Summer of the Shark. Now, are you ready for the Summer of Corruption? On Thursday, jury selection begins in the federal trial of disgraced former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. The timing couldn't be worse for Blago's old Chicago pals in the White House. Just as Team Obama tries to bury one job-trading scandal, another one resurfaces.
It's a useful reminder that Washington didn't turn Obama into a business-as-usual politician. He was born and bred among the slimiest in their class.
At the center of the Blago trial is the convergence of the Chicago political machine -- the corrupt Democratic Party establishment, Big Labor heavies at the Service Employees International Union and Team Obama.
In December 2008, the political ties that bind them all came under national scrutiny when federal prosecutors publicly released their criminal complaint against Blagojevich. SEIU figured prominently in Blago's secretly taped musings on how to profit from his power to appoint Obama's Senate replacement. So did a larger union umbrella federation, Change to Win, led by SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. Blago hatched a plan to snag a $300,000-a-year job as head of Change to Win in exchange for appointing a union-friendly successor to Obama.
Like Obama, Blago enjoyed massive campaign donations and on-the-ground support from the SEIU's Purple Army. Like Obama, Blago repaid his Big Labor backers with labor-friendly executive orders and legislative largesse to facilitate union organizing and carve out major portions of the health care industry for them. At the time of his arrest, Blago was preparing another executive order to expand the union power grab over an even larger portion of home health care workers targeted by the SEIU.
Blagojevich did the country an extraordinary unintended favor. As health care analyst David Catron wrote: "He has made it clear to the meanest intelligence that Obama emerged from a hopelessly corrupt political culture. Barack Obama oozed from the same stinking Chicago swamp that produced Blagojevich, and a man whose formative years were spent wallowing in the muck with such creatures isn't likely to be long in the White House before the stench of pay-to-play politics begins to pervade the place."