The office of Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday took issue with an Associated Press story suggesting that Durbin gave then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) tacit approval to appoint a political rival to fill President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
The AP, citing two anonymous Durbin aides, reported that Blagojevich consulted the Majority Whip about appointing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) to Obama’s seat. Madigan is the daughter of state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D), one of Blagojevich’s former foes in the Legislature, but the governor considered appointing the state attorney general to smooth relations with her father and put his legislative priorities on better footing.
Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said the phone call between his boss and the former governor did occur but said the context of the AP story was seriously flawed.
Rather than a single 10-minute phone call between Durbin and Blagojevich that was strictly about Madigan, as the AP story suggested, Shoemaker said the conversation lasted about 15 minutes and involved a discussion about some 20 possible replacements to the seat. Blagojevich asked Durbin his opinion of the potential Senate appointments, and Durbin delivered a very brief response.
“They did talk about Madigan. That comprised about one minute of a 15-minute conversation,— Shoemaker said.
The call took place on Nov. 24, and was recorded by the FBI as part of a Justice investigation into Blagojevich, who was later impeached and removed from office by the Legislature amid allegations he tried to sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder. Just prior to his ouster, the governor appointed now-Sen. Roland Burris (D) to fill Obama’s old Senate seat.
Prior to the Nov. 24 conversation with Blagojevich, Durbin had tried for 12 days without success to reach the governor to discuss potential appointments, Shoemaker said.
“Sen. Durbin tried to get across two messages,— Shoemaker added. “Pick someone who can hit the ground running as a Senator, and No. 2, find someone who can be appointed quickly.—