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Blagojevich's Removal Sought As Top Aide Quits

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office, saying he has been effectively "disabled" by the public corruption charges brought against him.

Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, who was charged along with the governor earlier this week, resigned on Friday.

In court documents, Madigan asked the Illinois Supreme Court to allow Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn to immediately take over as acting governor until the court determines whether Blagojevich is fit to serve.

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A State In Limbo

Madigan said the public corruption allegations against Blagojevich have severely hampered the state's ability to borrow money to fund state services, including medical care, schools, day-care centers, nursing homes and mental health institutions.

"The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on critical, time-sensitive issues, including filling the United States Senate seat, signing or vetoing legislation, dispersing state funds or awarding state contracts," Madigan asserted in the state's pleadings.

If the court does not remove Blagojevich, Madigan asked that he be barred from appointing a senator to fill the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama; acting on any legislation; directing state agencies in negotiating or executing contracts; and other duties associated with the office.

Blagojevich, 52, and Harris, 46, were arrested Tuesday on federal conspiracy and solicitation of bribery charges. Blagojevich, who denies wrongdoing, has continued to work at his office in downtown Chicago.

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Blagojevich met with several ministers at his home on Friday. The Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church, said the group did not discuss the public corruption allegations.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Blagojevich was on a "political corruption crime spree," participating in a number of schemes that included efforts to sell an appointment to Obama's now-vacant Senate seat.

Illinois law instructs the governor to fill that seat, and Fitzgerald said phone calls intercepted by government wiretaps between Blagojevich, Harris and a number of Senate hopefuls showed that the governor wanted to trade an appointment for campaign contributions, a Cabinet post, an ambassadorship or other jobs.

Legislature May Act

Senate Democrats have warned Blagojevich not to name a replacement. The Illinois state Legislature has planned a special session Monday and could strip Blagojevich of his power to fill the seat.

Blagojevich and Harris have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

The solicitation charge is related to a scheme to pressure the Tribune Co. to fire several members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board in exchange for state assistance in the purchase of Wrigley Field. The Tribune Co. owns the historic ballpark, and the company was attempting to negotiate its sale to the Illinois Finance Authority.

In court documents filed Friday, Madigan also asked the court to bar Blagojevich from directing the activities of the Illinois Finance Authority. The IFA is a self-financed state authority engaged in issuing taxable and tax-exempt bonds, making loans and investing capital for businesses, nonprofits and local governments.

Madigan encouraged the Legislature to move forward with efforts to impeach the governor; she said she decided to take legal action because it would be faster.

"When you have no confidence from the people, in a democracy there's nowhere else to go but to resign," Lt. Gov. Quinn said.

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