‘Pay to Play’ Author Shares Her Story

“If you are over 50 and someone offers you something that seems impossible, you should do it.”

That’s what Elizabeth Brackett, a correspondent and substitute host for WTTW 11’s nightly public affairs program “Chicago Tonight,” said she did when offered the opportunity to write a book.

Shortly after the FBI arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich at his home in Chicago on charges of attempting to sell President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, Brackett had a book contract from a local publisher.

She took six weeks to write the book, recycling old reporter’s notes and assigning new research. The result is “Pay to Play,” which traces the background of corruption in Illinois and the mindset of Blagojevich.

Having spent 30 years as a journalist in Chicago, Brackett said she still had difficulty writing the book. “I was writing like a journalist,” she told an audience during a keynote session of the 2010 NFPW Conference in Chicago. “That didn’t make for good copy.”

She took a month off from her job to write and research, which included reviewing all of the courtroom notes.  She was at the trial every day. In the end the jury was hung on 23 of the 24 counts. Blagojevich was found guilty of one count – lying to the FBI.

When asked what she thought about the case and trial, she said, “I think I can’t decide ‘Is this more than politics as usual?’ ”

“Did they [Blagojevich and his brother] take it to a criminal level?” she asked. “It’s still a question I have a hard time answering.”