Sunday, February 15, 2009

Political corruption in Illinois, a Grand Tradition

Blagojevich didn't invent crooked politics in Illinois, though if the charges of rampant shakedowns and hanging a "for sale" sign on a vacant U.S. Senate seat are true—and he insists they are not—he may have raised the art form.

Consider this recent box score toted by political scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago: 1,000 public officials and businessmen convicted of public corruption in Illinois since 1970, including three governors, 19 Cook County judges and 30 Chicago City Council members.

Corruption has been embedded in Illinois' political DNA since pioneer days. European immigrants found jobs and housing easier to come by if they helped keep the powers-that-be in power.

"The social compact in this state was built on corruption," said Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "It worked very well for some people."