Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested on charges of, among other things, conspiring to sell or trade the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife.
Following a brief court appearance, Blagojevich was released on his own recognizance. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 14.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, calling it a "political corruption crime spree," said the Illinois governor had been charged with mail and wire fraud for allegedly threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Co. in the sale of Wrigley Field in an alleged move to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of the governor.
Fitzgerald said Blagojevich had allegedly tried to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions, both in the past and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect Jan. 1.
Blagojevich had been under investigation in connection with allegations indicted Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko demanded political contributions for Blagojevich in return for "fixing" businesses' efforts to gain regulatory approvals or state contracts.
In an FBI affidavit, authorities alleged wire taps revealed on Dec. 4, Blagojevich told an adviser he might "get some (money) up front, maybe" from an unnamed contender for Obama's Senate seat, to insure the candidate keep a promise about raising money for Blagojevich in a possible re-election bid.
The affidavit also alleges on Oct. 31, Blagojevich said of a conversation with the candidate: "We were approached 'pay to play.' That, you know, he'd raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made (the candidate) a Senator."