Legal Woes Have Hit Other Governors

By: - December 10, 2008 12:00 am

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) became the latest governor to be in trouble with the law, after federal authorities arrested him and his chief of staff Tuesday (Dec. 9). But not all scandal-tainted governors have been convicted or forced to step down.

In 2006, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) was indicted for patronage abuses, but state prosecutors later dropped those charges. Fletcher served out the rest of his term but lost his bid for re-election in 2007.

The year before, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for not properly disclosing gifts he received from a lobbyist. He finished out his term and couldn’t run again because of term limits. But the “Coingate” scandal that engulfed Taft led to big Democratic gains in state offices in 2006.

In contrast, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) resigned in March after getting caught up in a prostitution sting, even though no charges were ever filed. He became the 22nd governor in U.S. history to leave office early under a cloud of scandal.

Blagojevich made a name for himself by pledging to fight political corruption. The Illinois governor first won election in 2002 by campaigning against the legacy of his predecessor, George H. Ryan, who was convicted on federal corruption charges after leaving office and who is now serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

The Illinois Constitution does not require a governor who has been indicted to step down. If Blagojevich does leave office, Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn (D), a frequent critic of the governor, would assume the post.

As governor, Blagojevich has had hostile relationships with the Democrats who control the state’s General Assembly, which has led to numerous budget stalemates, threats of impeachment and a proposal that passed the House to institute recall in Illinois.

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