Friday, January 18, 2013

Fitzgerald Wins Appointment From Governor He Put In Office

Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald effectively made Pat Quinn governor of Illinois by pursuing a prosecution of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which resulted in his impeachment and removal from office. Quinn, who was lieutenant governor at the time, succeeded Blagojevich under Illinois' constitution. Gov. Quinn is now prepared to reward Fitzgerald, a New York native and Harvard Law graduate who only moved to Illinois after his appointment as U.S. Attorney, with a highly-coveted seat on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. By law, the 9-member board can have no more than five members of one party appointed at one time and there are already 5 Democrats on the board according to the Chicago Tribune.

Quinn is bumping an independent member of the board, Lawrence Oliver II, to name Fitzgerald. Oliver was not at all pleased to learn the news. Quinn's office used the excuse of him voting in a Democratic primary in 2010 as the reason for removing him. Although Fitzgerald was first appointed U.S. Attorney by President George W. Bush, he was not the choice of Illinois Republicans for the position, who blame his prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan for returning control of the governor's office to the Democratic Party. Fitzgerald is presumably being appointed as an independent since he hasn't voted in Illinois primaries.

Although Fitzgerald initially won high marks for his prosecution of high-profile persons in both political parties, including two governors, critics point to evidence that his office dismissed overwhelming evidence of corruption committed by two of Chicago's biggest political players, Barack Obama and Richard Daley. His prosecution of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby has been the source of a lot of criticism. Fitzgerald pursued a prosecution of Libby for his supposed role in leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame even after he learned that Richard Armitage had been the source of the leak soon after his appointment as a special prosecutor in the case. Eyebrows were also raised when Fitzgerald became a partner in the law firm of Greg Craig, who served as attorney for Obama's presidential transition team at the time Blagojevich had communicated with key members of Obama's staff, including Obama himself, about naming Obama's successor to the Senate seat vacated by Obama upon his election as president. Fitzgerald alleged that Blagojevich was trying to sell the Senate seat, but he ordered an arrest of Blagojevich before a deal could be reached, a move some believe was intended to avoid embarrassment and legal fallout for Obama.

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