An unflattering portrait depicting Illinois First Lady Patricia Blagojevich as a modern-day Lady Macbeth who plotted against her husband’s perceived enemies and backed his corrupt schemes emerged in court documents connected to the governor’s arrest Tuesday.
Her alleged ambitions and brashness are outlined in a 76-page federal criminal complaint: She helped her husband hatch a plan to sell President-elect Barack Obama‘s old U.S. Senate seat. She angled to trade her husband’s power for lucrative spots on corporate boards. And she unleashed an obscenity-filled tirade suggesting Tribune Co. ownership should “just fire” Chicago Tribune editorial writers if the company wanted the state to help it unload Wrigley Field to ease its crushing debt.
“Hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive],” she is quoted as saying in the background as her husband talked on the phone, authorities alleged. "[Expletive] them.”
Patricia Blagojevich, 43, has not been charged with wrongdoing.
The affidavit also alleges she participated in a two-hour conference call last month in which she, Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his aides discussed selling Obama’s seat in exchange for her placement on paid corporate boards. Patricia Blagojevich suggested she would be qualified for such positions because she has a background in real estate and appraisals, while the governor stated that he hoped she would pull in at least $150,000 annually to alleviate the family’s “financial stress,” according to the complaint.
When the governor mulled appointing himself to the Senate seat, one of the arguments in favor was that it would be easier for his wife to become a lobbyist, authorities alleged.
The first lady, who did not attend her husband’s bail hearing Tuesday, is no stranger to rough-and-tumble politics. She grew up the oldest daughter of longtime ward boss Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), bearing witness to the ways of the Chicago Machine since grade school.
Patricia Blagojevich famously feuded with her father after Mell accused the governor of pay-to-play politics in 2005, though they briefly reconciled after her mother’s death two years ago. Despite their chilly relationship in recent years, Mell expressed concern for his daughter Tuesday—but not for his son-in-law.
“It’s a terrible day, terrible,” he said. “My main concern right now is for my daughter and my grandchildren. That’s all I want to say right now.”
The Blagojeviches never moved to Springfield, opting instead to raise their two young daughters in their Ravenswood Manor home. While championing such causes as literacy, children’s health care and public breast feeding, the first lady, who has a degree in economics from the University of Illinois, continued to work as a real-estate agent until a federal investigation heated up.
The first lady’s once-lucrative real estate career suffered after her most famous client, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, was convicted on political corruption charges. A Tribune investigation revealed she earned more than $700,000 in commissions on other deals after her husband began raising money in 2000 for his first gubernatorial campaign.
Of those commissions, the Tribune found more than three-quarters came from clients with connections.
As her commissions faded, she briefly took a job as an investment banker. She touted her ability to land state business upon her hiring with a local banking house, but those deals never materialized and she soon left.
In September, she began working as a full-time fundraiser for the Chicago Christian Industrial League—a job she obtained after a longtime political ally of the governor talked to the director of the non-profit homeless agency.
A spokeswoman for the agency said Tuesday that Patricia Blagojevich still worked at the agency, but declined further comment.
The first lady’s office also declined comment, referring inquiries to the governor’s spokesman.