Donald Lambro
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, whom Mr. Obama endorsed and supported in two gubernatorial campaigns, was arrested last week by federal authorities in a brazen "pay-to-play" scandal said to involve attempts to extract payoffs for filling Mr. Obama's open Senate seat.

And Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the influential chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee -- who would be in charge of Mr. Obama's tax plan -- is being investigated for, among other things, failure to pay his taxes and helping a wealthy donor to a center named in his honor to obtain a tax loophole in return for a large contribution to the facility.

The Democrats have been hit by one scandal after another in the past year that have toppled some of their party's biggest names. New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer was forced to resign his office after being caught in a high-priced prostitution ring. Flamboyant Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, awaiting trial on bribery charges and money laundering, was defeated in a runoff election last week by a little-known Republican in a heavily Democratic district. Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney, who replaced disgraced Republican Mark Foley -- forced out in a congressional-page scandal -- was defeated last month after purportedly keeping his mistress on the House payroll and trying to buy her silence.

Mr. Obama has said that no one in his transition team was in involved in the scandal engulfing Mr. Blagojevich and has begun an internal investigation to see whether anyone else connected with his campaign may have spoken to the governor or his staff about filling his Senate seat.

However, political analysts acknowledged the full story is still not known, and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who will be Mr. Obama's White House chief of staff, has refused to answer reporters' questions about whether he was the "president-elect adviser" who spoke to the governor about filling Mr. Obama's Senate seat, according to the U.S. attorney's complaint in the case.