Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions - both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009.

Rich Miller's ongoing coverage can be found HERE.

The historical significance of last week's votes to elect a new Senate president and a new Senate Republican leader is difficult to overstate.

For starters, replacing both chamber leaders at once is an extreme Springfield rarity. According to Kent Redfield, one of the state's leading political scientists, the last time this happened was 34 years ago.

Also, Senator Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) became the first woman in all of Illinois history to lead a legislative party caucus.

The historical novelties, however, pale in comparison to the historical imperatives.

I was interviewed the other day by National Public Radio about the "campaign" to fill President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. Most of what I said was left on the cutting-room floor, but my message to the NPR reporter was crystal clear: Ignore all the punditry and prognostication.

Two groups, one pro-choice and the other pro-life, are doing their best to bend the Illinois Statehouse to their respective wills. Let's peek in, shall we?

Yet another bizarre year of Illinois politics has been duly capped by Governor Rod Blagojevich's recent stated opposition to a constitutional convention.

Only in Illinois, perhaps, could voters be shocked into voting yes on the convention referendum because their own governor strongly urged a no vote.

The price tag and our state's failed politics appear to be the two biggest arguments against holding a constitutional convention.

Every 20 years, Illinois voters are given the right to call a constitutional convention. I want you to vote "yes," but various interest groups are spending millions to convince you to vote "no."

The "vote no" ads claim the projected cost of holding a convention is too high, especially considering that the state is running a horrific budget deficit.

They aren't telling you something.

There are many arguments against voting for an Illinois constitutional convention next month. I thought I'd try to address some of those arguments today.

I'm a member of a union. My father was a proud union member. His father was a union member and, for a time, a union organizer. I own a business. My maternal grandparents, whom I cherished more than anyone else when I was a kid, were farmers. My mother was a public-school teacher for several years. Both of my parents are now retired and rely heavily on their government pensions.

What the heck does any of that have to do with anything?

It's no secret that Governor Rod Blagojevich is probably the most unpopular Illinois governor in living memory.

The entrenched politicians and special-interest groups who oppose a state constitutional convention are rightly worried that the public's mistrust, even hatred, of this governor will skew November's vote. Every 20 years, voters are given the right to call a constitutional convention, and the next opportunity is November 4. Opponents fret that Illinoisans may decide to make the constitutional convention vote a referendum on Rod Blagojevich. If that happens, they say, illogic and emotion will prevail, and terrible consequences could follow.


The truth is that Rod Blagojevich is a walking, talking poster child for a constitutional convention.

seal of the state of Illinois The polling results I've seen from both sides of the debate say a plurality of you will vote for a state constitutional convention this November.

The numbers still aren't there yet. The question on the fall ballot must either be supported by 60 percent of those who vote on the issue, or by at least half of all those voting in the election itself. Still, it's getting there.

I'm one of those who supports a constitutional convention. And after 18 years of covering Illinois politics, I am not only convinced that a convention is necessary; I also believe I have a duty to tell you why.