Is it troubling that Blagojevich was permanently banned from political office?

Along with removing him from office, the state Senate voted to ban Blagojevich from ever again holding political office in Illinois. Setting aside any consideration of the main impeachment verdict (removal from his current office), this permanent ban seems troubling to me.

Ultimately, any impeachment trial is as much or more a political exercise as it is a legal one. If the people of a state believe that the state Senate’s decision was wrong, it seems to me that the voters should have the ability to express their countervailing political will by voting the impeached official back into office, if they so choose. A permanent ban thus impedes the rights of the voters to elect the candidate of their choice.

Certainly, this is all hypothetical in Blagojevich’s case, as his popular support seems negligible just now. But one can envision a scenario wherein impeachment is used as a political weapon in a struggle between two parties in a divided government. If a permanent ban from elective office is a permissible power of the state senate, a majority of senators could use it to remove a powerful and popular governor from a rival party forever, and they could do so for purely political motives.

One could argue that the only circumstances under which this could happen are so politically unlikely that this is not a problem worth worrying about. But here’s the thing: the only reason to impose a permanent ban is to guard against the possibility that the removed official might one day regain popularity – i.e., if there’s no chance that he’ll ever be popular enough to be elected again, then there’s no need to impose a ban. Thus, almost by definition, a permanent ban is imposed for the purpose of frustrating the will of future voters. Should a state legislature have that power?

Note: I’d really like to avoid having this become a discussion of the specific pros and cons of the Blagojevich proceedings (presumably there are other threads for that). My question is not intended as any sort of defense of (or attack on) Blagojevich or his removal from office. I’m just trying to address the question of the permanent ban on a more abstract level.

Yes, extremely troubling, because it drastically reduces the likelihood that the man will ever be allowed to parade his extraordinarily entertaining big-hair hubris across the media landscape.

Well I agree. The impeachment, while a valid constitutional tool, is not a fair trial. It merely removes a person from office.

To remove rights of a citizen without a fair trial seems very wrong to me. Can the Senate do that to anyone else ?

He can still run for Congress or the Presidency. This is perfectly constitutional. The Constitution grants the same power the US Senate at the federal level.

You make some good points, but this isn’t one of them. It would first take a two-thirds vote to convict any Governor before the second vote barring him forever.

Is it the right of a citizen to hold an elected office? If so, then isn’t the rights of 29 year olds being violated in a lot of states which have 30 year old minimum age limits?

No, because he wasn’t. They just won’t let him hold office in Illinois again. Nothing is stopping Blagojevich from moving to Alaska, becoming a resident, and challenging Sarah Palin for the governorship of that state.

Limits on the ability of voters to effect their will are inherent in constitutional government, and especially in the American model of separation of powers and checks and balances. We protect minority rights from majority encroachment, and we limit the power of any single elected official.

Sometimes, we even place limits on whom voters can elect. There are age and residency requirements for Congress and term limits on the President. Many of these are duplicated at the state level. In Illinois, felons are disqualified from seeking or holding state office, which will probably soon disqualify Blagojevich anyhow.

Disqualification via impeachment is one small additional restriction, and hardly the most onerous. Certainly it can be misused, as can any government power. (The best safeguard against that is the two-thirds requirement for conviction.)

But politicians corrupt enough to induce two-thirds of the legislature to vote them out of office can misuse their power as well. A single legislative district, seduced by Blago’s cash, connections, and clout, might well be persuaded to return him to Springfield, where he could resume corrupting the process all over again. It’s a danger I’d just as soon avoid.

I stand corrected: a supermajority. But maybe there are some states where conviction only requires a simple majority. :slight_smile:

That’s certainly true, but it’s not just his interests at stake. The voters of Illinois are (theoretically) losing out as well, and an official’s ability to run in another jurisdiction does not rectify that problem.

Absolutely true as to the other restrictions, but I see a distinction here. Many of the restrictions that you mention can conceivably be justified for non-political “quality control” reasons, like being underage or not of sound mind. The permanent-ban power can be exercised simply for political advantage.

Along the same lines, perhaps the bar on a felon running for office would be sufficient to address the danger of corruption being resumed, without giving the legislature a broader banning power.


By the way, I know I’m just noodling in the abstract here, and I don’t actually see this as a serious lurking constitutional problem. But I never knew that a legislature could have such a power, and I thought it was interesting to discuss.

Holy crap! I would pay to see that race.

Exactly. Not troubling in the least.

Blagojevich is troubling, all on his own… That hair, that voice. Very troubling.

This is for Blago’s own good.

It’s quite obvious that he will never win another popular election in his life, especially in Illinois. It is equally obvious that Rod has an ego the size of the Moon and would run for every office from Sheriff to President of the Universe if we’d let him. So, to save him the embarrassment of running for and losing every election from now until he dies, the Senate magnanimously forced him to stay out of Illinois politics and get on with his life. :wink:

No, but really, Blagojevich is not a threat to be elected to any office ever again. The ban was just a symbolic kick in the ass on his way out the door.

The same thought occurred to me yesterday. Fundamentally, it’s like a bill of attainder.

Moreover, I can’t think of any legitimate reason (in general) to bar someone from running for office. However, if the State wants to punish people with such a bar, such punishment should only be imposed by the Court system.

A more extreme example of this is the situation in Israel, where extreme right wing Jews such as Meir Kahane have been barred from the Knesset. Essentially based on their (extreme) views, as far as I know.

A similar question occurred to me yesterday: not whether the legislature should have this power, but whether they do have this power. Is a permanent bar from elected office a permissible sentence upon impeachment, or does every non-felon, over-25, Illinois resident have an inalienable right to run for governor?

The answer, of course, lies in the Illinois constitution.

(underlining mine)

So yeah. As it turns out, this is perfectly legal in Illinois. As to the OP’s question (i.e. whether it should be legal) – ::shrug::

The disqualification clause is a legacy of the British origins of impeachment, when it was used as a check on officers of the crown. It did little good to remove a corrupt officer if the king could reappoint him.

When the process is used against an elected official, disqualification is more problematic, as Blagojevich would be more likely to seek elected than appointed office, and a ban on elected office does restrict voter choice.

Still, I’d be more prone to get upset if there was any evidence that disqualification had been used, ever, at either the federal or state level, as a partisan tool. I know of no such cases. The US Senate actually showed forbearance in not disqualifying Alcee Hastings when it removed him as a federal judge, and he was subsequently elected to the House.

If your employer fires you for cause, after giving you a fair hearing, should they be required to consider rehiring you without taking your firing into account? Does it violate your “right” to that job?

That’s what this is. The people are the employer of the government officer, and the legislative body acts as the employer’s HR department under the rules. So what’s the problem?

I’m not sure I buy your analogy, but anyway, with a typical private corporate employer, the corporation – acting through its senior officers – is free to overrule the decisions of the HR department and hire somebody who would normally be disqualified.

I think the word “trial” here is misleading in a way. Yes, it’s a trial conducted by the Illinois legislature. But it’s not a CRIMINAL proceeding, which is what springs to my mind when I hear the word “trial”. So it doesn’t have go by the rules we think of as usually applying to trials. AFAIK, there’s no “innocent until proven guilty” here. And I think that’s fine.

The man was the governor and should be held to a higher standard than at a criminal trial. He seems to have acted with great impropriety. The mere appearance of that behavior would be enough to cause serious questions, but in this case it was caught on tape and is rather damning. I’m fine with not assuming innocence until he’s proven guilty. I don’t think it’s too much to say that he serves at the pleasure of the people, and as soon as he does something stupid, out he goes.

And while Blago has been accused of criminal wrongdoing, that will be dealt with in another venue.

Could the IL Senate, at some future time, rescind Blago’s permanent banning if it so chose?