A secret 2008 recording of a conversation between a scandal-plagued governor and a future candidate for that same office is roiling Illinois politics.
The recording between then-governor Rod Blagojevich and major Democratic donor J.B. Pritzker, now running for his party’s nomination for governor, features a discussion of who Blagojevich should appoint to the U.S. Senate to replace Barack Obama, who had just been elected president. The recordings were made as part of a wiretap used in a corruption investigation against Blagojevich, who was eventually convicted and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.
Pritzker is recorded referring to one possible replacement, Secretary of State Jesse White, who is black, in what critics say was in a disparaging manner.
“Even though I know you guys aren’t like, you know, bosom buddies or anything, it covers you on the African-American thing,” Pritzker is heard saying in the recording published by the Chicago Tribune.
Pritzker went on to say that appointing Jesse Jackson, Jr. for the open Senate seat would be a “nightmare,” and described another African-American candidate, Emil Jones, as “crass.” He then concluded:
“But if you’re forced to put an African-American in the spot, which my guess is, you’re not forced to do anything, but my guess is a lot of pressure to do it, of all the African-Americans I can think that are sort of like qualified and vetted and people will say, ‘Oh, that’s, you know, that’s, that’s a pretty good pick,’ the one that’s least offensive and maybe gets you the most because it gets you that secretary of state appointment is Jesse White.”
Pritzker, a venture capitalist and member of one of the country’s richest and most philanthropic Jewish families, is facing a March primary vote in which African-American turnout is expected to be crucial. The winner will likely challenge incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner, who has already been running ads attacking Pritzker based on the wiretap recordings.