This story is days late in appearing, but no less relevant as the media conviction of the Illinois governor continues unabated.

But now some lawyers are beginning to suggest that the juiciest part of the case against Mr. Blagojevich, the part involving the Senate seat, may be less than airtight. There is no evidence, at least none that has been disclosed, that the governor actually received anything of value — and the Senate appointment has yet to be made.

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Ever since the country’s founding, prosecutors, defense lawyers and juries have been trying to define the difference between criminality and political deal-making. They have never established a clear-cut line between the offensive and the illegal, and the hours of wiretapped conversations involving Mr. Blagojevich, filled with crass, profane talk about benefiting from the Senate vacancy, may fall into a legal gray area.

If payback and back-scratching and threatened talk of same were prima facie evidence of crimes, you’d find a pretty empty pair of chambers out at the Arkansas Capitol come January. Speaking in a strictly legal sense.

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