This week one of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s chief critics, state Rep. Jack Franks, introduced legislation aimed at preventing corrupt politicians from selling their stories for profit.
Franks filed the bill hours before learning Blagojevich signed a six-figure book deal with Phoenix Books, an independent publisher based in Beverly Hills, California. According to the Associated Press, the publishing house’s previous releases include a memoir by disgraced New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, a tell-all by four Hollywood call girls and a book by a German man accused of cannibalism.
If Franks’ bill becomes law, any elected official convicted of wrongdoing would not be able to profit from book or movie deals detailing a crime for which the politician was convicted. Any profits from such deals would have to be turned over to the state. Franks said he patterned the bill after state laws passed in the 1980s to prevent New York serial killer David Berkowitz from making money by selling book or movie rights to his “Son of Sam” murders.
I think the Franks bill is a good idea. (Dare I call it a “(bleeping) golden” proposal?) Unfortunately, Blagojevich can keep any profits from his book unless he is convicted of forthcoming federal charges. His book, tentatively titled The Governor, is expected to hit bookshelves sometime between October and December, but the federal case against Blagojevich isn’t expected to go to trial until next year. Hopefully the remaining Blago books will be in bargain bins by then.
I, for one, will not pay a penny for that book. If the publisher wants to send me a review copy, I’ll be glad to read it and write about it on this site. But I refuse to give any money to a man who played a key role in screwing up my state’s finances — which likely will result in higher state taxes — while pretending to care about people other than himself and his immediate family.
However, I do wish to caution those who might rush to judgment about the contents of Blagojevich’s book. While I’m certain the book will be completely self-serving and contain its fill of half-truths and lies, there surely will be some actual truth in what Blagojevich writes, too. The trecherous part is trying to figure out which parts are true.
Remember when disgraced baseball slugger Jose Canseco published his book Juiced, in which he claimed there was rampant steroid use in baseball? Canseco was derided as bitter and turned into a laughingstock. Then baseball “suddenly” developed a steroid problem, and Canseco was vindicated. He still is considered a bit of a joke, but one that did some good by shining a light on a serious problem.
If Blagojevich is true to his word and accurately writes about the “dark side of politics,” he also could shine light on a serious problem. Even so, I doubt his book would do much to change politics. The Chicago political machine will not come to a grinding halt. But if it exposes any corruption that gets rectified, I suppose Blagojevich’s writing debut will be worth the paper it is printed on — but not 25,000 copies of it.