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Rod Blagojevich Biography

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Birth Name: Rod Blagojevich
Born: 12/10/1956
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA

After clerking for Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak, Blagojevich took a job as an assistant prosecutor for then-State Attorney, Richard M. Daly. In 1992, he won a statewide seat in the Illinois House of Representatives with the help of his father-in-law, powerful northside alderman Richard Mell. Blagojevich quit the seat to run for the House of Representatives and easily won Illinois' 5th district after unseating Republican Michael Patrick Flanagan, a placeholder for Democrat Daniel Rostenkowski, who had pled guilty to mail fraud in 1994. Blagojevich spent six uneventful years as a representative, winning re-election twice by wide margins in the face of weak competition. Perhaps his most controversial vote in Congress was in favor of the Iraq War resolution, which helped grant President George W. Bush the power to invade. In 2002, he won a close primary vote to secure the Democratic nomination, before pivoting to win the gubernatorial election over Republican Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan.

Blagojevich spent his first few years in office pushing for progressive legislation, including the promotion of health programs for children, death penalty reform, statewide smoking bans and, ironically, ethics reform. As early as 2005, Blagojevich was the subject of numerous separate federal investigations that involved a series of shady characters, including his former fundraiser-turned-convicted influence peddler, Tony Rezko. Though his name arose in connection to other cases involving other ethics violations, he largely remained beneath the national public radar until he was arrested on Dec. 9, 2008 for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and soliciting bribes. Charged by bulldog federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, the governor was alleged to have been caught on a wiretap trying to sell newly elected president Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in exchange for money paid through a non-profit or union, placing his wife on paid corporate boards, promises of campaign funds and a Cabinet post or ambassadorship.

While the disgraced governor was taken to task in the national media, which was due in part to his odd behavior - like claiming he had done nothing wrong and reading a Rudyard Kipling p m instead of fielding questions - Blagojevich shocked the nation when he appointed state senator Roland Burris to fill Obama's seat. Meanwhile, he faced numerous calls to resign from both state and national levels, while maintaining his bizarre stance that he was completely innocent despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. His biggest challenge came when the Illinois House voted almost unanimously to begin impeachment proceedings. Though he managed to seat Burris, Blagojevich was impeached on Jan. 8, 2009 with all but one vote approving the move.

But instead of slinking off to lick his wounds, Blagojevich soaked up the limelight and continued making public appearances, including on the "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ). He made an attempt to star on the resurgent reality show, "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here" (NBC, 2009), but was denied passage to Costa Rica, where the show was taped, due to travel restrictions placed on him following his indictment. Following a turn in the Second City musical "Rod Blagojevich Superstar" (2009) to raise money for charity, he published his autobiography The Governor: The Truth Behind the Political Scandal That Continues to Rock the Nation (2009) and was slated to appear on "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ). Meanwhile, he awaited trial for his federal corruption charges, which was set for June 3, 2010.