By Greg Bishop
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday the secretly-recorded conversations he had with then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008 have no bearing on his efforts to fight corruption in Illinois.
Back in 2008, Pritzker was caught on federal wiretaps with the then-Democratic governor. During the 2018 election, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner used audio from those calls in campaign ads.
“I actually am calling you about, I think you appoint his replacement, don’t you,” Pritzker said in one 2008 call.
Pritzker was asking about a report that Blagojevich was going to appoint Alexi Giannoulias “to something in Washington.” Giannoulias was the state treasurer at the time and if he was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama, it would have opened a vacancy for the treasurer’s position, which Pritzker wanted.
“Oh, interesting, let’s think about that,” Blagojevich said. “You interested in that?”
“Yeah, that’s the one I would want,” Pritzker said. “It makes a lot of sense.”
In a separate phone call, Pritzker and Blagojevich discussed political donations.
“First of all you give money to everybody, like [then-Attorney General] Lisa Madigan, OK,” Blagojevich said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Pritzker said.
“Which incidentally, if you could do for me what you did for her before the end of the year,” Blagojevich said. “Can you think about that?”
“Well, I can’t, not while everything is up in the air, but I hear ya,” Pritzker said. “Yeah, I hear ya.”
President Donald Trump commuted Blagojevich’s 14-year corruption sentence this week. On Thursday, Pritzker brushed off questions about the tapes.
“There were hundreds of people who were recorded, to be clear, and let’s also make sure that we all understand that what happened more than ten years ago has nothing to do with where we are in this state,” Pritzker said.
He said he has sympathy for the Blagojevich family, but he’s more focused on the state’s challenges than what happened in 2008.
“Those include challenges around the budget and challenges around addressing corruption that exists still in our state more than a decade after he went to prison,” Pritzker said. “We still have politicians in this state who are on the take. We’ve got to get rid of them. We’ve got to make sure that we find them out. We’ve got to make sure they get prosecuted.”
Pritzker said there is still corruption in Illinois and he said he is adamant about rooting it out. On Wednesday, Blagojevich called Springfield a “swamp” while speaking to supporters and reporters outside his home in Chicago, but didn’t take questions from reporters.