As 2009 rushed toward its conclusion as one of the most embarrassing years in the storied annals of Illinois political corruption, the state's Executive Ethics Commission issued a decision in a case that would be relatively minor but for the fact of who it involved and what it represented.
The ruling came in the case of three employees of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's communication staff who wrote a memo under the governor's signature in February 2007 praising the nascent presidential campaign of fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama. The ethics commission, responding to a complaint filed in September 2008 -- before Obama's election and the ethics allegations that led to federal charges against Blagojevich and his eventual ouster -- ruled that the memo actually constituted "political activities" and, since it was created on state time and state-owned computers, it represented a violation of state law.
The release itself -- which the three employees testified the governor never saw or discussed with them -- was cloaked in the guise of a statement of pride for the hopes of a state's favorite son. But with a particularly Blagojevichian flourish, it added, "Senator Obama supports the very best of these Democratic values; they are values that he and I share, values I know he will fight for."
Phrases like that, the ethics commission said -- as well as others stating Blagojevich was "excited and proud to support Senator Obama in his bid for the presidency" -- cannot be read in any other way than as a statement of political support. …