It was early December 2008 when I sat down at my computer and saw the breaking news about then-governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest on corruption charges.
For the weeks leading up to the arrest, my husband, Eric, a law enforcement officer, had been more secretive than usual about his work. Typically, I have only a general idea about what he’s doing: “surveillance for a new case,” “meeting an informant,” “paperwork in the office.” Due to the sensitive nature of his work, he is unable to share the details of what he does, beyond what I might read online or see on television.
But in the months leading up to Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, I had no idea what occupied my husband’s time. He even specifically requested that I not ask him about his work. One Sunday morning, a week or so before the arrest, when he was working an extra shift, I read some news online about the governor being taped by John Wyma, a friend and fundraiser. I sent Eric a quick email with the news link: “Is this what you’re doing?” He never replied. Just a few days later, I learned that my husband was one of many asked to quietly assist in this foundation-shaking case.
For weeks, this story commanded the attention of people across Illinois and around the country. As Blagojevich prepares to release his book, The Governor, this week, I anticipate people turning to this story the same way that northbound traffic cranes to check out a southbound accident.
My prediction? This book will instead reinforce what most people already believe about Blagojevich. His jostling for this six-figure book deal is just the epilogue in a career of self-serving acts.
The criminal complaint against Blagojevich offers evidence of many times Blagojevich tried to use his political position for personal gain. In his attempt to fill Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, he was recorded saying, “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I’m saying. And if I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself.”
The Blagojevich biography is a cautionary tale for leaders. While striving to provide health care for children and seniors, it appears that my former governor was simultaneously running the state like a mafia don.
Sure, there must have been some good in his political plans, but Rod Blagojevich was a leader who failed to keep his personal ambitions in proper perspective. All that he could gain as a “public servant” clearly clouded whatever service he might have otherwise intended.
If our desire to get supercedes our willingness to give, we may need to reevaluate our decisions and actions. Inherent in leadership is the power of influence and following, and it can cause great harm if corrupted. Political power and opportunity combined with ambition leads to disaster that no amount of media-manipulating and story-spinning will fix.
This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.