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Blagojevich has no golden parachute if impeached.
By Dan Carden | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/28/2009 12:02 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - When it comes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's personal finances, the man who once wanted campaign money so badly he allegedly shook down a children's hospital for donations now might need to start shaking down couch cushions for change.

If Blagojevich is removed from office, he will no longer collect his governor's salary of $177,412 a year.

At the same time, the Chicago Christian Industrial League recently fired First Lady Patricia Blagojevich, who had been making $100,000 a year as a fundraiser for the charity. Her salary already was a step down from a previous career in real estate where Mrs. Blagojevich regularly was paid more than $100,000 a year, according to federal tax returns.

"We fully expect the Senate will make a decision and there'll be changes in our lives," Gov. Blagojevich told Barbara Walters on "The View" television show Monday.

One big change will likely be that an annual family income that for many years topped $300,000 might drop near zero.

Money has been at the heart of the governor's recent legal problems. While he was allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat for campaign contributions, the governor was also on the lookout for new jobs for himself and his wife.

In telephone calls with advisers, Blagojevich speculated on the possibility of landing a cabinet position or a high-paying job with a union or nonprofit organization for himself and a paid corporate board position for his wife, according to FBI wiretaps cited in a federal criminal complaint.

"I want to make money," Blagojevich said on the tapes.

The wiretaps also captured Blagojevich saying he was "struggling" financially" and did "not want to be governor for the next two years."

The governor has been concerned about his financial security since at least 2003. When he called for a 15 percent cut in his office expenses to help balance the budget that year, Blagojevich cited his family's needs to justify not cutting his own pay.

A spokesman for the governor did not respond to questions about Blagojevich's future job prospects or finances. The governor is a lawyer who has held elective office since 1993.

"There are tens of thousands of Americans that are losing their jobs as we speak, so I'm not the only one," Blagojevich told reporter Geraldo Rivera on the street in New York City Monday. The governor dodged Rivera's question: "Are you broke?"

"I'll pick myself up and find a way to make a living," Blagojevich said.

Blagojevich's father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell, reportedly is financially well-off, but he and Gov. Blagojevich have been feuding for years.

Removal from office means Blagojevich won't even be able to file for state unemployment payments. Applicants are told they do not qualify if discharged for misconduct in connection with their work, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Making the situation worse are huge legal bills looming ahead of the two-term governor. Even after impeachment proceedings end, Blagojevich still faces a court battle on federal corruption charges. The governor tapped his campaign war chest to pay more than $1.3 million in legal fees between July and December 2008, Illinois State Board of Elections records show. He has about $2.6 million left.

But it is unclear whether Blagojevich will be able to use that money going forward.

Federal prosecutors are reportedly considering trying to freeze that fund since Blagojevich is accused of trading official acts for campaign donations. In 2002, prosecutors convinced a judge to freeze then-Gov. George Ryan's campaign fund, characterizing his fund as a "criminal enterprise."

Prosecutors have not set a date for Blagojevich's criminal trial. Should Blagojevich be convicted he will likely lose his Illinois pension. State pension law says a pension will not be paid to any person who is convicted of any felony in connection with his service.

Pension officials used that provision to strip Ryan of his $197,000-a-year pension following his 2006 corruption conviction. Today, Ryan remains jailed in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

However, there is some good news for Blagojevich.

The 52-year-old Chicago Democrat will likely be able to collect a federal pension for the three terms he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Based on his salary and years of service, Blagojevich can expect about $14,000 a year from the federal government. The bad news is he wouldn't be eligible to collect it until age 62.

But current members of Congress are not Blagojevich fans. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, and Rep. Bill Foster, a Geneva Democrat, convinced a House committee on Jan. 21 to insert language into the pending economic stimulus package that would prohibit Blagojevich from controlling the estimated $50 billion Illinois is expected to receive.

Those same members of Congress could theoretically pass a law stripping Blagojevich of his federal pension.