Blagojevich’s 19th Century Role Model

Saturday, January 10, 2009
William Lorimer

The controversy surrounding embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich is nothing new for Illinois politics.  Five of the last 10 Illinois governors, including Blagojevich, faced criminal charges, but the tradition of paying for a Senate seat actually stretches back for more than a century.  Robert Loerzel at The Huffington Post recounts the tale of how the infamous Illinois political boss William Lorimer coerced, cajoled, and ultimately bribed his way into the U.S. Senate in 1909: “Lorimer ran for the Senate seat before the 17th amendment was ratified in 1913, so instead of being directly elected by the people, Lorimer had to earn the votes of the Illinois State Senate. When 33 Democrats crossed party lines at the last minute to vote for Lorimer, who was a Republican, a Democrat named George English retorted, “You can say that... principles cannot be cashed and that dreams cannot be cashed. What, then, can be ‘cashed’ on the floor of this assembly? Nothing but votes, I take it.” Eleven months after Lorimer arrived in Washington, the Chicago Tribune printed on its front page, “Democratic Legislator Confesses He Was Bribed to Vote for Lorimer for United States Senator. Charles A. White, Member of Illinois Assembly, Tells How Support Was Bought. Gives $1,000 As Price.” After being exonerated once by the U.S. Senate and once by the Illinois legislature, Lorimer finally met his demise in a 1912 full senate vote which determined that he used illegal means to secure his election. Loerzel writes, “The Blagojevich case is not an exact replay of the Lorimer scandal, but it's easy to see Blagojevich as a classic Illinois politician very much in the Lorimer mold—someone who wants something in return for every job, contract, appointment and favor he doles out. That’s the essence of Illinois politics, and it hasn’t changed all that much in a hundred years.”

When Another Senate Seat Was Up for Sale (by Robert Loerzel, Huffington Post)


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