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Rod Blagojevich is an Illinois-based politician whose career has been marred by as many scandals as it has been highlighted by successes.
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He graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1983, and immediately began work as a private attorney in Chicago.
In 1986, Blagojevich joined Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's legal team as the Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, where he specialized in domestic abuse crimes and felony weapons cases. Two years later, he decided to return to private practice. During this time, he attended a fund-raiser hosted by Chicago Alderman, Richard Mell, in the hopes of drumming up more business. Instead,
he became infatuated with Mell's daughter, Patricia. The two eventually fell in love, and married in 1990. The couple now has two daughters, Amy and Anne.
Mell put his political weight behind his new son-in-law, who told reporters later that he had never considered a life in politics. According to Blagojevich, his new father-in-law acted as his political advisor, encouraging him to run for State Senate. "I called him up and asked him would he like to take a shot at state rep, but by the way, you're probably going to lose," Mell said of Blagojevich's first election campaign. The young lawyer, however, was not deterred. In 1992, Blagojevich beat out incumbent Democrat Myron Kulas to become a member of the Illinois State House of Representatives.
In 1996, Blagojevich made the leap to Washington, when he won the Illinois 5th district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, beating out Republican Mike Flannagan for former U.S. Representative Dan Rostenkowski's seat. Blagojevich went on to serve three terms as a congressman. His most notable achievement during his service came in 1999, when he helped Reverend Jesse Jackson free three U.S. prisoners of war in Yugoslavia.
With Mell's help, Blagojevich once again decided to run for office in 2002‚ this time as a gubernatorial candidate for the state of Illinois. Campaigning as an idealistic, progressive candidate against corruption, the young politician won his bid against Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas. His election made him the first democrat in 26 years to win a governorship in Illinois.
Before his had finished his first term, however, a dispute between Blagojevich and Mell soon put the new governor out of favor with his father-in-law. The argument came in 2005, after Blagovich shut down a landfill site owned by a distant cousin of his wife, Patricia. It was later revealed that Mell had acted as an advisor to the cousin on the matter and, in a public feud, Mell accused Blagojevich of "using" him to get ahead.
In December of 2005, Blagojevich found himself in the middle of a fresh scandal when it was reported that contracts for fast food franchises at the renovated Illinois Tollway oasis were given to Blagojevich campaign donors. The next year, the governor was again under investigation after receiving a $1,500 check from personal friend, Mike Ascaridis. The money came shortly after Ascaridis' wife, Beverly, was given a job at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, despite having failed the required state hiring-exam.
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