Criminals, congressmen and the Chicago Cubs have all been linked to the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, charged by the feds with hanging a "for sale" sign over Barack Obama's Senate seat in a tangled web of corruption.
The cast of players in this drama read like a who's-who of Illinois politics and federal crime investigators.
At the center sit Blagojevich and his right-hand man, chief of staff John Harris, arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. Federal investigators tapped Blagojevich's phones and recorded conversations that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called evidence of a "political corruption crime spree."
Fitzgerald made his name prosecuting the likes of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, now in prison for corruption; and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in the CIA Leak investigation.
The FBI said its investigation of Blagojevich goes back three years.
At a press conference on Tuesday, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge in Chicago Robert Grant said that if Illinois "isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor."
Blagojevich is accused of saying he wouldn't give away the president-elect's Senate seat for free -- he was going to make sure he got a plum job for him or his wife, Patricia Blagojevich, or money in exchange for appointing someone the next senator from Illinois.
Patricia Blagojevich is the daughter of Chicago alderman Richard Mell, credited with getting Blagojevich's political career off the ground. Her sister is state Representative-elect Deborah Mell.
On Thursday, Obama said that he had no connection to the scandal surrounding his Senate seat.
"I have never spoken with the governor on this subject. I am confident that no representative of mine would have any part in any deals related to this seat," Obama said.
He has called for Blagojevich's resignation.
Several famous names top the list of people who have been mentioned as possible replacements in the Senate.
Jackson Jr. denied any wrongdoing on Wednesday, and his lawyers said he was likely "Candidate 5" in federal documents. Blagojevich is accused of saying Candidate 5 might be willing to pay for the Senate seat.
Tammy Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard and head of the state Department of Veterans Affairs and an Iraq war veteran, has also been named as a potential replacement for Obama. Duckworth lost both her legs and suffered serious injury to her right arm in combat as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq.
The names of Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and state Senate President Emil Jones Jr. have also been tossed out as potential senators.
Then there are the Chicago Cubs.
In addition to the "pay-to-play" scheme, Blagojevich is also accused of trying to get members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board fired for leading the charge on a potential impeachment by withholding money from the Tribune Company as it tried to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
The Justice Department intercepted calls between Harris and Blagojevich during which the two discussed holding back financial assistance from the Tribune Company unless there were some changes to the editorial page staff and its attitude toward the governor. According to the government, Harris told Blagojevich on Nov. 11 that a Tribune owner, probably Sam Zell, "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue."
A handful of convicted criminals have also been linked to the Illinois governor's alleged wrongdoing.
Antoin Rezko, a political fundraiser awaiting sentencing for fraud, and Stuart Levine are also accused of collaborating with Blagojevich for financial gain in the FBI's 76-page complaint against the governor and his chief of staff. Rezko gave more than $117,000 to Blagojevich's campaigns. Levine testified against Rezko when the two were charged with wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, and attempted extortion in 2005.
Ali Ata, another witness against Rezko, allegedly discussed the idea of his appointment to a state position with Blagojevich with a $25,000 check to the governor's re-election committee on the table between them. Ata pleaded guilty of lying to investigators about how he got his job.
Blagojevich is also accused by the FBI of exchanging contracts and government funds for campaign contributions involving a highway contractor, a children's hospital and an engineering firm.
In the wake of the scandal, Illinois government officials, including Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and state Attorney General Madigan are pressuring Blagojevich to resign.
Quinn said on television Thursday that Blagojevich "will be impeached" if he doesn't resign. Madigan said Thursday that she was prepared to take action if the governor did not step aside voluntarily.