‘Trumpocrat’ Blagojevich to stump for GOP state Senate hopeful next week — and, yes, Republican leaders call it ‘a bad idea’

The self-declared “Trumpocrat” will headline an Aug. 27 fundraiser in St. Charles, six months after Blagojevich was freed with a commutation from his former reality television boss.

SHARE ‘Trumpocrat’ Blagojevich to stump for GOP state Senate hopeful next week — and, yes, Republican leaders call it ‘a bad idea’
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to members of the Illinois delegation at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to members of the Illinois delegation at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Scott Olson/Getty Images file

Rod Blagojevich once joked about not having a speaking role at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, saying the “Democratic National Committee and Mayor Daley invited me to speak at 4:30 in the morning in the men’s room at Faneuil Hall.”

Fast forward 16 years, past that early aughts convention that vaulted Barack Obama to the national stage, and past the ex-governor’s prison sentence for trying to auction off that “golden” U.S. Senate seat, and now, the newly sprung Blagojevich has the keynote speaker slot — at a Republican National Convention watch party.

The self-declared “Trumpocrat” will headline an Aug. 27 fundraiser in St. Charles to support a west suburban Republican state Senate candidate and “to celebrate President Donald J. Trump’s RNC 2020 nomination,” six months after Blagojevich was freed with a commutation from his former reality television boss.

Tom McCullagh

Tom McCullagh

Provided

Illinois Republican Party leaders called it “a bad idea,” but GOP candidate Tom McCullagh said he invited Blagojevich to “highlight corruption in Illinois, and how to fight it.”

“I’m not defending him or his actions in any way,” McCullagh said. “He’s been speaking out against Mike Madigan’s corruption since he got out. That’s the only reason I would involve myself with a person of such notoriety: to outline how the Madigan machine works, and how to dismantle it.”

Representatives for the powerful Illinois House speaker, who was implicated last month in a bribery scheme alleged against ComEd, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Madigan has not been charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

McCullagh said the event was “almost sold out” by Monday afternoon, and might be moved to a larger outdoor venue to accommodate more people while abiding by social distancing guidelines. The location hasn’t been disclosed “due to security reasons.”

An invitation for the $150-per-plate event — limited to 50 guests — promises an “intimate address” from Blagojevich that organizers claim will be live-streamed to 1.67 million viewers. Supporters can pledge $300 for admittance to a VIP reception, or $1,000 for a sponsorship.

A flyer for an Aug 27 fundraiser featuring ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

A flyer for an Aug 27 fundraiser featuring ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Provided by Tom McCullagh

McCullagh, who had $286.38 in his campaign fund at the end of June, wouldn’t say how much Blagojevich is being paid for the appearance. Since his release, the disbarred ex-governor has been hosting a podcast and churning out personalized videos on demand for $80 a pop.

Meg Loughran Cappel, McCullagh’s Democratic opponent in the 49th Senate District race, said “it’s shameful that Tom McCullagh would accept help from corrupt, disgraced figures like Rod Blagojevich and Donald Trump.”

“Countless Illinoisans are worried about their jobs, health care and safety, while these three politicians only worry about themselves,” Cappel said.

In a statement, the Illinois Republican Party said “we have nothing to do with this event and we don’t condone it. It’s a bad idea. Republicans in Illinois are for cleaning up Democrat corruption that has plagued us for too long — not celebrating one of its most insidious characters.”

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady said “we were not involved in this event. I support President Trump and I support Tom McCullagh.”

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thanks Mark Vargas, a political strategist and advisor, as he speaks to reporters outside the family’s Ravenswood Manor home in February.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thanks Mark Vargas, a political strategist and advisor, as he speaks to reporters outside the family’s Ravenswood Manor home in February.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Listed second on the bill is Mark Vargas, the conservative political strategist and adviser who served as the Blagojevich family’s conduit to the White House to help secure his commutation.

“We’ve called for Madigan to resign, and just thought this would be another great opportunity to support Trump,” Vargas said. “Rod’s happy to get out and show some support. He’s a natural campaigner.”

Vargas also provided a statement from Blagojevich, who called McCullagh “an outsider and an agent of change. If elected, he will go to Springfield and shake up that corrupt establishment that is all about serving itself and Mike Madigan on the backs of the hard working people of Illinois.“

Gov. Rod Balgojevich speaks with reporters at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Gov. Rod Balgojevich speaks with reporters at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Scott Olson/Getty Images file

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