The Illinois House panel investigating the behavior of Governor Rod Blagojevich has returned a recommendation for impeachment, despite setbacks from US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on cooperation.  They argue that grounds for impeachment extend beyond explicitly illegal activity, and necessarily also includes the inability to perform the duties of his office.  Besides, according to the wiretaps, it sounds as if Blagojevich doesn’t want the job anyway:

The special Illinois House panel investigating Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a draft report today recommending impeachment of the two-term Democratic chief executive, putting lawmakers on a path toward removing the governor from office.

“The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own. It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so,” says the draft report (full text), posted by Democratic and Republican members on the House Web site.

“For all the reasons stated in this report and the evidence contained in the record before the committee, the special investigative committee for the Illinois House of Representatives, 95th General Assembly, finds that the totality of the evidence warrants the impeachment of the governor for cause,” the draft report concludes.

The language in the 69-page draft report reflects the sentiments of the 21 members on the House panel, who began looking into impeachment proceedings against the governor on Dec. 16–a week after Blagojevich was arrested at his North Side home on federal criminal charges of allegedly using the governor’s office for personal and political gain.

If adopted, Blagojevich could be impeached by Friday.  The report has to pass out of committee, where little opposition is expected, and where both Democrats and Republicans have serious motivation to expedite the effort.  By next week, the Illinois Senate could begin holding hearings on removal.  Unfortunately, that comes a little late to prevent Blagojevich from making the Senate appointment that started the whole mess in the first place.

Blagojevich will undoubtedly do his best to slow down the process, but the committee points out that his desire to remain Governor seems fairly recent in nature (page 16 of the report):

Finally, it is worth noting that the Governor was overheard on four different occasions stating that he no longer wished to serve in office.  He indicated in one conversation that he did not want to be Governor for the next two years. … He later referred to remaining in office as Governor as having to “suck it up” for the next two years.  … In an undated conversation, the Governor was overheard expressing frustration at being “stuck” as Governor. … He stated that he was also considering appointing himself Senator as a means of avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature.

That could make a compelling argument for impeachment on its own, at least on political terms.  If Blagojevich spent so much of his time trying to find a way out of Springfield’s prison of a governor’s mansion, it speaks to a certain unfitness for office that the legislature should address.  Clearly, he no longer has the state’s interests foremost in his mind, but on finding ways to use his power to “parachute” out of Illinois government.

If Blagojevich or his attorney show up to fight impeachment in the House — they surely will defend themselves in the Senate — they can expect some pointed questions as to why Blagojevich suddenly wants to stay in office.  The correct response, “Because no one will hire him now,” will not cut much ice.