Are Blagojevich and Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Money Dealings with Chicago's Indian Community Tied to the Corruption Charges?
Continued from previous page
Near my town, in western Massachusetts, a contractor goes to see the local Mayor to deliver his regular payment of $5,000. The Mayor, Richard Goyette, stops him. “What, no envelope?” he asks, stuffing the money into his pockets. In a federal wiretap, Goyette complains about those who had to pay him to earn city contracts, “They’re all greedy.” The symbiotic relationship between money and power is evident regardless of the scale, from a small municipal contract to the large no-bid contracts for firms to operate in Iraq (such as Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton).
Sleaze is characteristic of American politics, and it is one of the principal reasons for the lack of faith among the population in their elected officials and in the political process in general. Large numbers of people refuse to vote on election day for precisely the reason that they do not trust the process. Their withdrawal allows the connected and the wealthy to make the system their own, cynically.
Obama’s election raised hopes and brought large numbers of people to the polls. Millions hope that it will turn the page on the corruption at all levels of government. The Blagojevich scandal is a reality check, a reminder of how widespread corruption has become. Obama’s link to Blagojevich threatens to revive a sense of hopelessness.
Blagojevich’s various scandals are quite pedestrian in today’s America. One of them is that he wanted a payoff for the expansion of the Jane Addams Tollway. That deal did not happen over samosas and masala tea. But others did. When Obama won, Blagojevich recognized quickly that he had a “golden” opportunity, a goose that could lay a million eggs in one swoop. The larger the deal, the less the squalor.
Three of the past six Illinois governors spent time in jail for corruption, so the odds were always against Blagojevich. His affinity with the Indian Americans is not just for their money but also because both share the hunger of immigrants (Blagojevich is the son of a Serbian immigrant and a working-class American woman). Just as Bedi, Nayak, Bhatt and Mahajan turned to Blagojevich for their ascent, he was gifted by marriage to the politically connected Mell family. Money, power, family: this is as much a Hollywood as a Bollywood drama.
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His new book is The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, New York: The New Press, 2007. He can be reached at: email@example.com