The Governor's InDiscretion
By Robert Romano
"If men were angels, we would have no need for laws or limits; no enduring imperatives to protect the weak and proscribe the strong. If men were angels, power to could be entrusted to the few and the many would be secure. If men were angels ... but, alas, they are not."—Thomas Paine, France, 1794
The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, may have the constitutional power to make the temporary appointment of Roland Burris, the state's former Attorney General, to the U.S. Senate. And that may, indeed, be how the fate of his appointment is ultimately determined. But the real lesson here is that the people of Illinois—and all Americans—need to be careful about to whom they give power in the first place, and how much power is bestowed.
The real lesson of Mr. Blagojevich—now being prosecuted for attempting to sell the very seat he has just filled—is the need for limited government.
Men, as Thomas Paine averred, are not angels. And if you give them too much power to abuse, they will abuse it. Governor Blagojevich has unbridled authority to make the appointment to the Senate. Even while being prosecuted, nothing inherently limited his power and discretion to make the appointment. Very specifically, the applicable statute states:
“(10 ILCS 5/25‑8) (from Ch. 46, par. 25‑8)
“Sec. 25‑8. When a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from this state, the Governor shall make temporary appointment to fill such vacancy until the next election of representatives in Congress, at which time such vacancy shall be filled by election, and the senator so elected shall take office as soon thereafter as he shall receive his certificate of election.”
So, for all the bluster of Democrats in the Senate about not seating the appointment—merely because it appears to be politically damaging for Democrats to allow the appointment to stand—and for all the bombasts demanding that the Illinois Secretary of State not certify the appointment for the same reason, the fact is the law provides no exception to the Governor's appointment power.
And the Illinois Secretary of State and the U.S. Senate are limited in their powers. Neither has power, despite media reports, to do what is suggested, which is to circumvent the law without amending or repealing it. That would be up to the Illinois legislature, which has in fact failed to limit, amend, or repeal the Governor's power.
So, when the December 30th press release from the Governor's office states, “Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today appointed former politician and statewide office-holder Roland W. Burris to the United States Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama,” it means that Roland W. Burris is now a United States Senator representing Illinois.
If those in Illinois government had a problem with that, they should have repealed the law allowing it. They could have provided for a special election. They could have vested the power in themselves. They could have made any of a number of moves to limit the powers of Governor Blagojevich.
Which is the problem with government: When there is a problem within government, it is often up to government to fix it. So, government then turns to government to ask government if government did anything for which government should be held accountable by government. There is no alternative. Nobody oversees the overseers, who have already rigged the game in their favor.
What occurred in Illinois was that the state legislature failed to effectively limit the powers of their Governor. Instead, they vested in the Governor powers that should have been invested in the people. But weren't.
So, nobody ought to be shocked or dismayed when abuses—like Mr. Blagojevich filling a seat he has been accused of attempting to sell—occur. The state legislature should long ago have made filling vacant seats the sole purview of the people.
The Governor has the power to appoint Roland Burris to the Senate. And as that fact dawns upon the people of Illinois, they will learn a very important lesson about limiting the powers of those who can wield it willy-nilly to advance their own agendas.
Men, indeed, are not angels. And that's why it's so vitally important to severely limit their power to perform their devilish deeds.
Robert Romano is the Editor of ALG News Bureau.