Some Illinois Democrats Ask SCOTUS To Hear Blagojevich Appeal To Clarify The Line On Fundraising

Dec 7, 2017

Nineteen Illinois Democrats have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to help clarify the line between legal and illegal political fundraising.

Credit U.S. Government

Among those making the request are U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, and former State Sen. Emil Jones.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports they argued in an amicus brief filed Monday that there's legal confusion about when fundraising becomes extortion or bribery.

The current and former Illinois Democratic congressional delegation members emphasized that they take “no position on Mr. Blagojevich’s innocence or guilt on any of the counts of conviction.”

Instead, they wrote that the nation’s highest court should hear his appeal to “distinguish the lawful solicitation and donation of campaign contributions from criminal violations of federal extortion, bribery, and fraud laws.”

They said current laws create “confusion” over “the necessary, legitimate solicitation of campaign contributions, on the one hand, and unlawful extortion, bribery, and fraud, on the other.”

The court already refused in 2016 to hear Blagojevich's appeal of his corruption convictions, including that he tried to trade an appointment to Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash.

One member of the group -- U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago -- said he considers the disgraced former governor a friend.

“Former Gov. Blagojevich has received a sentence that was longer than I felt necessary,” Davis said. “If I can be helpful to him and his family, I want to be able to do that.”

The former governor became politically toxic when he was convicted of corruption in 2011. He has served more than five years of a 14-year prison term.

In 2016, the court refused to hear Blagojevich's appeal. His attorney filed another request last month.

  • WBEZ reporter Mariah Woelfel contributed to this story.