WASHINGTON — Note to prominent people doing questionable things: Don't invite authorities or the press to check up on you while you do it.
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- Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'
Just as presidential candidate Gary Hart once baited reporters to "follow me around" if they thought he was stepping out on his wife, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told people on the eve of his arrest Tuesday that they were welcome to tape his public and private phone calls.
"I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful," Blagojevich huffed.
Twenty years earlier, Hart asserted: "I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored."
Back in 1987, reporters who tailed Hart got enough of an eyeful to end his presidential ambitions. They saw model Donna Rice at Hart's Washington town house while his wife was in Colorado.
Now the prosecutors who bugged the governor have come away with enough of an earful to charge him in a "political corruption crime spree."
To be sure, Miami Herald reporters were already on Hart's tail before he issued the challenge, and prosecutors had been listening in on Blagojevich's calls well before he said on Monday that officials could tape away.
But daring would-be tormentors to tune in shows a particular kind of conceit, says Eric Dezenhall, author of the book "Damage Control" and a crisis-management specialist who advises corporations and high-profile people.
"The truth is that spin often only succeeds in tricking the spinners," he said.
'Like Wile E. Coyote'
"The people who get themselves into these messes are like Wile E. Coyote — people who are in love with their own cunning who end up driving themselves off a cliff."
Blagojevich said Monday that anyone listening to his phone calls would only hear him trying to help the citizens of Illinois and talking about what the Chicago Cubs should do in the offseason. "I don't care whether you tape me privately or publicly," he said.
However, he told reporters that he wished authorities planning to tape his calls would "give me a heads-up and let me know." That didn't happen.
Federal investigators heard expletive-filled conversations in which, they said, the governor conspired to sell the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama in return for cash or a juicy job for himself or his wife.
Blagojevich is accused of doling out jobs, contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions and illegally threatening to withhold state aid to owners of the Chicago Tribune in an attempt to get the paper to fire editorial writers who had criticized him.
The governor has known for three years that he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud. When FBI agents told him Tuesday that he was being arrested, he asked, according to one of them, "Is this a joke?"
The explosive story of Hart's hosting of Rice was met with the then-senator's indignation and anger, followed by more disclosures and his eventual departure from the Democratic presidential primary race.
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