Obama And Blagojevich's Distant Relationship: They Haven't Talked For More Than A Year

01/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President-elect Obama's history with disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is dissected in several reports, including stories of how the men haven't talked in more than a year and how Obama spurned Blagojevich during the Democratic convention in September.

The Washington Post reports:

Like every other politician in Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich waited for Barack Obama's call this summer. He told colleagues that he expected a speaking role at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, a nice bit of payback for being the first governor to endorse the senator from Illinois in his campaign for president. By showing off a connection to Obama in Denver, Blagojevich hoped to repair his own diminished reputation.

Obama's campaign made speaking offers to the Illinois treasurer, the comptroller, the attorney general and a Chicago city clerk. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) was asked to introduce Obama on the convention's final night; Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (Ill.) was told he would speak on television during prime time. Finally, fed up and embarrassed that he still had heard nothing, Blagojevich joked to a crowd at the Illinois State Fair that, yes, he also had been asked to speak -- at 4 a.m., in a Denver area men's bathroom.

Long before federal prosecutors charged Blagojevich with bribery this week, Obama had worked to distance himself from his home-state governor. The two men have not talked for more than a year, colleagues said, save for a requisite handshake at a funeral or public event. Blagojevich rarely campaigned for Obama and never stumped with him. The governor arrived late at the Democratic convention and skipped Obama's victory-night celebration at Chicago's Grant Park...

The president-elect's connection to Blagojevich is emblematic of his political rise in Chicago. Obama had contact with corruption, but rarely firsthand. He relied on the establishment when he needed it, but he maintained enough distance to cast himself as an outsider.

"Few people I've ever known have as good a sense about who might end up getting you in trouble," said Denny Jacobs, a retired Illinois politician from East Moline who befriended Obama when they both served in the state Senate. "It's like a sixth sense. Chicago's a mess, and he was surrounded by it. But he knew the people that could drag you down and tarnish your image."

The New York Times delves into Obama and Blagojevich's contrasting relationships with indicted real-estate developer Antoin Rezko, who was an insider in both their camps:

For much of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama was dogged by questions about his long friendship with Mr. Rezko, a real-estate developer who was involved in a deal related to land next to Mr. Obama's home.

And as the 76-page complaint against Mr. Blagojevich makes clear, Mr. Rezko was also one of the governor's closest advisers, making him one of the few people in Illinois politics who was an insider in both the Blagojevich and Obama camps.

But while that could make him a potential bridge between the two men, people who worked with Mr. Rezko say his ties to them were largely kept separate, in part because Mr. Obama, a former United States senator from Illinois, and Mr. Blagojevich were never particularly close.

And while Mr. Obama's rivals will undoubtedly try to tar him over his political ties in what is widely seen as one of the nation's most corrupt states, nothing has surfaced to suggest that Mr. Rezko, who is in jail in Chicago awaiting sentencing, has provided any information about potential improprieties by Mr. Obama...

While Mr. Obama supported Mr. Blagojevich in the general election, he had endorsed one of Mr. Blagojevich's rivals in the Democratic primary.

Others say that Mr. Obama and Mr. Blagojevich were always quite different in personality and style and never seemed very fond of each other.

A few months ago, around the time that Blagojevich was spurned by Obama at the convention, he was facing major financial troubles, reports the Wall Street Journal:

At the same time, Mr. Blagojevich was facing financial troubles, according to several references in the federal affidavit. People familiar with the matter say his campaign fund had failed to pay more than $500,000 in legal fees incurred by his past legal counsel, Winston & Strawn. He also owed more than $900,000 on homes in Chicago and Washington, D.C., according to property records.

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