ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Joining us now from Chicago is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Welcome to the program.
Attorney General LISA MADIGAN (Illinois): Robert, thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: And first, we'd just like to try to clear something up here, matters of identification. The Washington Post figures you for the person who was called Candidate Number Two in the criminal complaint. No impropriety suggested on your part, but...
Attorney General MADIGAN: Right.
SIEGEL: Governor Blagojevich...
Attorney General MADIGAN: They are correct. I can confirm that.
SIEGEL: You are the person Blagojevich leaked word of interest in the Senate seat to try to get the Obama team to ante up for Valerie Jarrett...
Attorney General MADIGAN: It appears to be the case, unfortunately.
SIEGEL: By the way, are you still interested in the Senate seat?
Attorney General MADIGAN: I was never interested in the Senate seat.
Attorney General MADIGAN: That's kind of why when I actually saw the piece run in the paper here in Chicago, I was kind of shocked. I said, well, what is this? I've never spoken to them. I've never expressed any interest. I don't want to be considered. I'm happy serving as the attorney general. In fact, what I have been talking about is the possibility of maybe running for governor, but not the U.S. Senate seat.
SIEGEL: You've called for Governor Blagojevich to step down and let the lieutenant governor take over.
Attorney General MADIGAN: Correct.
SIEGEL: Barring that, as you understand the Illinois constitution and the laws there, is there any way that the governor could be prevented from naming a U.S. senator?
Attorney General MADIGAN: Well, there actually are. There are a number of ways. So, one, there has been some speculation - and certainly it came out in the criminal complaint yesterday - that the governor may consider and has been considering appointing himself. If he does that, there's case law that would say that the person who has the appointment power cannot appoint him or herself. We would obviously go to court should that take place.
But additionally, the secretary of state here in Illinois as well as the U.S. Senate itself could obviously refuse to seat somebody that the governor attempted to appoint. But I think the reality is, you know, nobody in their right mind in the state of Illinois is going to accept a Senate seat from the governor, considering the taint in what has gone on. So I think it is highly unlikely that that will occur. But you know, there were a lot of things that I thought were highly unlikely the day before yesterday.
SIEGEL: Yes. But first, not seating somebody who's been named or conceivably having two people who've been named to the same seat, that's different from saying the governor just won't be able to appoint anyone.
Attorney General MADIGAN: Well, what the legislature is doing, they're going into session on Monday, and both the House and the Senate have indicated that they will pass legislation that calls for a special election to be held to replace the U.S. senator. And so that hopefully is the way things will proceed. But you know, as you obviously recognized, there could be, you know, some problems down the road. If so, we'll contend with them.
SIEGEL: Yeah. If the governor just said, I'm naming Mr. Five, before that vote is completed, I think you'd be in a problem right there.
Attorney General MADIGAN: Well, I don't believe that anybody again - even people who were seeking the Senate appointment - would accept the appointment from the governor. They would be forever tainted. I don't believe that will happen. You know, in the best of all worlds, what the governor would do right now is to resign. It's been made clear that he has no capability of governing, that every single thing that he is involved with, everything he touches is for sale. And it is unimaginably brazen behavior. And it's completely illegal. We need a different governor here in the state of Illinois.
SIEGEL: There is something appalling about transcripts of a recorded conversation in which a sitting governor speaks of a seat in the Senate as a bleeping valuable thing which he ought to get some money for. There ought to be some contributions in exchange for it. On the other hand, it's certainly not unheard of in this country for somebody who wants a judicial nomination to be expected - not just in Illinois - to make contributions to the party that might control who gets nominated for such things. Is that criminal, plainly, to be expected to make a contribution to the party if you're going to be considered for a patronage appointment by the party or a nomination by the party?
Attorney General MADIGAN: If it's quid pro quo, the answer is yes. If it's, you know, we won't consider you for a nomination unless you make a contribution, yes, that's not legal. If what people are looking for in terms of a party affiliation is a demonstration of that loyalty - in other words, let's look at your voting record - you know, that's very different. But, yes, if somebody says to you, you won't be considered for X, Y, Z position unless you've made a campaign contribution or unless you've made a, you know, $50,000 campaign contribution, yes, that is illegal.
SIEGEL: And if it's just widely understood that that's what one does to be taken seriously in such matters?
Attorney General MADIGAN: Again, it's illegal. Now, you know, the problem has long been how do you prove that, right? So that's really the problem in that situation. Because you'll have somebody say, you know, I'm a Democrat, I'm a Republican, and I support the party, and I want, you know, to do that and, you know, nobody said anything to me. So the problem is a proof problem. But clearly, that type of conduct is outright illegal.
SIEGEL: Well, Attorney General Madigan, thanks a lot for talking with us.
Attorney General MADIGAN: Robert, it's my pleasure. Take care.
SIEGEL: It's Lisa Madigan, who is the attorney general of the state of Illinois.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.