The untold truth of Rod Blagojevich's wife

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich caught a big break when President Donald Trump commuted his federal prison sentence in a wave of clemency that also exonerated 10 other convicted felons on Feb. 18, 2020. Blagojevich — affectionately known as "Blago" — was convicted on 17 counts of corruption in 2011, including wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes. Most notably, the ex-politician allegedly tried to make a payday out of President Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat in 2008.

Before serving his 14-year sentence at a federal correctional institution in Colorado, Blagojevich put on a bit of a circus, including a stint on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. The truth about Blagojevich's bizarre period before prison included telling Esquire that he was "blacker than" Obama, and a failed attempt to land a role on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, to name a few odditiesConsidering Blago had just been indicted on federal charges, it's fair to argue his behavior during this time was downright strange. However, perhaps the Chicago native felt emboldened thanks to his supporters, which includes his wife, Patricia "Patti" Blagojevich. The two met in 1988 at a political fundraiser the former governor attended for Patti's father, former Chicago City Council member Richard Mell, and they married in 1990. The lovebirds share two daughters, Amy and Anne Blagojevich.

Of course, it's fair to have questions about the woman who has stayed by Blago's side throughout this wild ordeal. Here's everything you need to know Patti Blagojevich.

Rod Blagojevich owes his wife a huge thank you

Patti Blagojevich never stopped defending her husband, Rod Blagojevich, even going as far as to publicly campaign for his release from prison. The financial advisor's crusade apparently struck a chord with President Donald Trump, who praised her after a May 2018 appearance on Fox News. During her appearance, Patti compared her husband's plight to that of Trump, who was in the midst of a probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. "I see these same people who did this to my family, these same people that secretly taped us and twisted the facts and perverted the law that ended [with] my husband in jail. These same people are trying to do the same thing ... just on a much larger scale," she lamented about the investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. "They were emboldened. They took down a governor and now they've got their sights much higher." 

Patti repeatedly referenced Mueller in additional interviews, as well as Trump's other nemesis, former FBI Director James Comey, to seemingly put forth a conspiracy against her husband. "Mueller was director of the FBI when Blagojevich was investigated, and Comey was deputy attorney general," John Haltiwanger reported for Business Insider about the supposed links. "Comey's good friend, Patrick Fitzgerald, spearheaded the prosecution of Blagojevich as the US Attorney in Chicago."

Playing to the president's trigger points paid off, and at one point, he called Patti "one hell of a woman." 

Patti Blagojevich is deeply committed to her husband

Given the long laundry list of crimes for which Rod Blagojevich was convicted, it would be understandable if Patti Blagojevich struggled to keep thier marriage intact while Rod was in jail. However, this isn't how the scenario played out, with Patti declaring her allegiance to the former governor in a September 2017 interview with Chicago Magazine. "My only explanation is, I know who he is," she told the outlet when asked why she made the decision to stay. "You can't dump somebody when things get tough. I made a promise, and there's no need to break that promise."

That being said, Patti has learned to live a life without the disgraced politician. "We'll have to be together because we want to be together," she continued. "My relationship now — I don't need him. I've been able to survive without him. I know I can exist without him." 

Translation: The mom is a ride-or-die gal with an independent streak.

The one thing that could break Patti and Rod Blagojevich's marriage

Patti Blagojevich has weathered a lot to stick by Rod Blagojevich's side, including nightly phone calls from jail and frequently visiting him at a federal correctional institution in Colorado while he served out his 14-year prison sentence. But their strong marriage could come crumbling down depending on what Rod decides to do as a free man, as Patti noted to Chicago Magazine, "When he comes home, I want to live a very quiet life. Who knows what he wants? If he wants to get back into politics, he'll have to do that with his second wife. No thanks." The mom-of-two also made it a point to note that "when Rod comes home" she "never" wants to "talk about this again." 

It's no secret Rod is a bit of a wild card, so we wouldn't be surprised if he tries to insert himself back into politics in some way. The caveat? We're not sure he'd legally be able to jump back in the ring, at least in Illinois anyway. That's because Blago was barred from ever holding public office in the state of Illinois again following his impeachment in 2009, per The New York Times.

Rod Blagojevich's wife puts on a tough front

Amid appealing to the public and politicians for help leading to Rod Blagojevich's release from federal prison, Patti Blagojevich had to maintain a sense of normalcy for the couple's two daughters, Amy and Anne Blagojevich. Patti admitted in September 2017 that raising two kids solo was "a tough row to hoe," although she didn't have much time to wallow in her stress. "I can't indulge in feeling sorry for myself," she explained to Chicago Magazine. "My kids are sad and anxious, like they have PTSD. It's been really hard for them. I can't let myself go there. I've got my nervous breakdown scheduled for, like, 10 years from now, when Annie's out of college. That's when I can fall apart."

As of this writing, Amy is two years out of college and her younger sister Anne is still in high school. But now that Rod is officially home and all is seemingly well, we imagine her "nervous breakdown" is off the table. 

Patti Blagojevich's sister is an accomplished LGBTQ activist

A knack for politics run in Patti Blagojevich's family, as her dad, Richard Mell, served on the Chicago City Council from 1975 to 2013. Richard was succeeded by his daughter, Deborah "Deb" Mell, a lesbian who is committed to LGBTQ activism. Before her stint as a council member, Deborah was arrested in 2004 during a protest urging a county clerk in Chicago to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, per The Chicago Tribune. The arrest occurred 11 years before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the United States.

In addition to her council member career from 2013 to 2019 (she lost her most recent reelection bid by 13 votes), the activist served on Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's Advisory Council for Human Relations and also received a National Organization for Women award for her advocacy.

Deb is largely supported by her family, especially in regard to her dad who vehemently supported same-sex marriage before it was legal. "I'd like to slap the bastards," Richard said in 2004 about parents who don't support their LGBTQ kids, per The Chicago Tribune. He added, "If your child comes to you and tells you this and you really have a problem with it and it becomes a real issue, you really don't deserve to call yourself a parent." He also told Deb after she came out that her sexuality didn't make him feel any differently about her.

Politics was a way of life for Patti Blagojevich

Unfortunately for Patti Blagojevich, her relationship with her dad, Richard Mell, hasn't always been easy. The two were even estranged at one point, with Patti blaming the rift on how the former city council member supposedly counseled Rod Blagojevich when he was a fledgling politician. "My dad was making all these deals without telling Rod," Patti claimed, telling Chicago Magazine how Mell supposedly told Rod "whom he should hire and for what salary." Blago eventually got fed up with the situation, as Patti recalled, "Rod said, 'Hold on,' and my dad was like, 'You're gonna do it, and I don't want to hear anything about it.'" Tensions escalated when the Chicago native was elected as governor, feeling as if his father-in-law was too involved in his career. Then in 2005, the feud boiled over when Rod backed a "bill that includes a provision barring landfill ownership by relatives of top state officials," something that didn't make Mell happy as a distant cousin of his wife's owned a landfill at the time, per Crain's Chicago Business. Patti admitted there were a ton of "screaming matches" during this stressful period.

However, things improved shortly before Rod went to jail. "My dad was really the only person who came to Rod before he left and said, 'Don't worry about your family — I'll make sure they're OK,'" she explained to Chicago Magazine. "That's meaningful."

All's well that ends well, right? 

Patti Blagojevich's real estate deals were investigated

Rod Blagojevich wasn't the only one who was investigated for alleged criminal activity, as Patti was reportedly looked at for transactions she made as a real estate agent. The mom was hit with a federal subpoena in 2009, with investigators examining whether she received hefty real estate commissions from clients with "close political connections to or wanting to win favor from her husband," as Chicago Magazine noted. One supposed deal occurred when Patti allegedly "received nearly $50,000 from a real estate deal" involving Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, who was later "convicted of using clout with the Blagojevich administration to help launch a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme," per NBC Chicago.

Ultimately, Blago's wife wasn't ever charged with a crime. "That was scary," Patti said about the investigation. "That thought that they could come after both of us at the same time—that was terrifying."

Wait, Patti Blagojevich did what?

In an amazing turn of events, it was announced in September 2009 that Patti Blagojevich had joined the Season 2 cast of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in place of her husband, Rod Blagojevich, who had been gunning for the job. But when Rod sought permission from a judge to travel to Costa Rica so he could participate in the show, he was brusquely denied. "I don't think this defendant fully understands and I don't think he could understand ... the position he finds himself in," U.S. District Judge James Zagel stated, per ABC News. Although Blago had argued his bid was for financial reasons, there were worries he was a flight risk because taping was set to occur before his trial and sentencing. When all was said and done, Patti ended up taking her husband's place.

In that season of I'm a Celebrity, Patti starred alongside The Hills alums Heidi and Spencer Pratt, actor Stephen Baldwin, and former American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar, to give you a small taste of the iconic lineup. The Illinois resident was eliminated sixth, clocking in at just one slot away from third place, an honorable placement she possibly earned to garbling down a tarantula in a challenge. "She's making a sacrifice because she loves her kids," Blago told CNN's Larry King about his wife's commitment to winning the show, per Politico. "Eating that tarantula like she had to is an act of love."