What’s next for Rod Blagojevich? Can he practice law? Run for office? Become a poet?

Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — Rod Blagojevich and his family have spent the past eight years fighting for his freedom. Now that President Donald Trump has granted their wish by commuting Blagojevich’s sentence and sending him back to Chicago about four years early, the 63-year-old disgraced ex-governor’s future is here.

So, what now?

Here’s what we know about Blagojevich’s potential next steps:


Yes and no.

He can’t run in Illinois, a rule imposed by the state Senate when it removed him from the governor’s office in 2009. In a unanimous vote, senators barred Blagojevich from holding any future state elected office.

The former U.S. congressman still could run for federal office, including the presidency, because he meets the age, citizenship and residency requirements. That doesn’t mean he’d automatically take a seat if elected, though. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate can vote to expel any members who they think are unfit for the position.


Good question. He’ll need one, per the terms of his supervised release — the federal equivalent of parole.

Trump’s order specifically noted the president was not commuting the two-year period of supervised release imposed by U.S. Judge James Zagel. Under the conditions, Blagojevich has to meet with probation regularly, cannot leave the jurisdiction without permission and must seek employment.

If he has trouble finding a job, Blagojevich must do at least 20 hours a week of community service until he finds one, with a maximum 200 hours served.

Oh, and Blagojevich cannot be a government informant. So don’t count on him wearing a wire for the feds anytime soon.


Well, he probably won’t be a lawyer, despite his law degree.

The Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission is slated to hold a hearing Tuesday on the fate of Blagojevich’s law license. After appeals in his criminal case were exhausted, the commission filed a formal complaint seeking to disbar him for good, citing Blagojevich’s conviction on an array of federal corruption charges. The complaint states that the ex-governor’s crimes “adversely reflect on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”

This is likely no great disappointment to Blagojevich, who often joked about his lackluster career as a Cook County prosecutor.

The ex-governor shared no definitive career plans with reporters during a 20-minute speech outside his home Wednesday, but he did express a keen interest in criminal justice reform. Given his fiery rhetoric and the way supporters there responded, he could join the fight to dismantle the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the landmark legislation that is largely blamed for mass incarceration and prison overcrowding.

Blagojevich called the bill “racist” and noted Democrats had passed the legislation before he was elected to Congress.

“I hope that as I move forward, I can take some of that experience that I’ve had and try to do what I can to try to prove what is a broken, and I believe in many cases, a corrupt criminal justice system,” he said.


He already has — but it could be slightly tougher for him to do it again.

Blagojevich’s memoir, “The Governor,” was published in 2009 and gave his take on his downfall, including questionable comparisons to boxer Jake LaMotta, Theodore Roosevelt, Martha Stewart and George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

After Blagojevich signed his book deal, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that prohibited officials convicted of public corruption from profiting directly or indirectly from their crimes. In theory, that would include any future books about Blagojevich’s incarceration, but the law’s constitutionality has not been tested and some legal scholars doubt it would withstand judicial scrutiny.


Not much of one.

Blagojevich’s $65,000-a-year state pension was taken away in 2011 after then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion laying out how the corruption counts he was convicted of directly related to his official duties as governor.

“He repeatedly traded on his position as a public servant for his own, unlawful ends, violating the public’s trust,” the opinion stated.

The General Assembly Retirement System later went along with Madigan’s recommendation and denied Blagojevich his pension. He is still eligible for a refund of the personal contributions made to his retirement fund during four years as a state legislator and six years as governor, but it’s not a full one, according to Jeff Houch, a spokesman for the State Employees’ Retirement System.

In March 2012, a week before Blagojevich reported to prison, federal prosecutors announced they were garnishing about $21,000 of the $129,000 in pension contributions he’d paid into the system. After taking out taxes, public records show he’s still entitled to $101,917, but he had not applied for it as of Wednesday.

Blagojevich wasn’t totally shut out of a government pension, however. Because his crimes were committed well after his six-year stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, Blagojevich was allowed to keep his approximately $15,000 a year congressional pension, which the Tribune has reported he was eligible to begin receiving when he turned 62.


Nothing is stopping him.

Blagojevich is free to vote in any upcoming election now that he’s been released from prison, according to Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“People with felony records can vote as long as they are no longer incarcerated and as long as they re-register,” Dietrich said.

Blagojevich will get his first chance to back his benefactor during the Illinois primary on March 17.

“I’m a Trumpocrat,” Blagojevich said Wednesday to cheers from onlookers. “If I have the ability to vote, I’m gonna vote for him.”


If you thought the answer was Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” you made an extremely educated, but ultimately incorrect, guess.

During his 20-minute speech on his front lawn, Blagojevich recited a verse from “The Gate of the Year” by British poet Minnie Louise Haskins. The poem was also quoted by King George VI during his Christmas broadcast in 1939.

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God,” Blagojevich recited. “That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

How this translates to Rod getting a job remains to be seen.

Maybe there’s an opening for a bard somewhere?


©2020 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.