Obama Plays, Blagojevich Pays

by Mark Edward Taylor on December 8, 2011

F ormer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted on 18 counts of corruption, including trying to trade or sell President Obama’s former US Senate seat. Blagojevich’s prosecutors emphasized that he had originally campaigned for office as a reformer who would end pay-to-play politics.

Obama and Rahm Emmanuel helped run Blagojevich’s first campaign in 2002, with Obama serving as a “top advisor” for the general election. He endorsed Blagojevich a second time in 2006. Obama learned a lot from “Blago.” He saw how Blagojevich jokingly handled his tongue-twisting Serbian name and was soon calling himself “the skinny guy with the funny name” that rhymed with “Yo Mama.” Obama also took notice of how “Hot Rod” worked a room and began to imitate Blagojevich’s aggressive fundraising tactics. “If somebody said, ‘Barack, I can do five’ (as in $5,000),” one insider recalled, “he’d say, ‘I want you to feel a little pain and do ten.’” (See Ch 6 in my new book Branding Obamessiah for more on the Obama-Blago connection.)

O bama’s fundraising in Illinois was small change compared to the cash he’s collecting for his 2012 reelection campaign. Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York realized just last week that Obama was holding fund-raising events with the same corporate types they were holding vigils against. “President Obama is coming to town solely to raise money from the richest of the rich,” one of the march’s organizers lamented.

Despite his longstanding association with Blago and the underworld of Chicago politics, Team Obama effectively branded Obamessiah an unblemished outsider who would clean up Washington. Now in his reelection campaign, despite fundraisers with the some of fattest cats on Wall Street, President Obama is rebranding himself the champion of the poor and middle class. Who’s paying and who is Obama playing?

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