No Joke: Chicago and Illinois are Corrupt

February 15, 2012

Chicago Real Estate Forum often writes about lists our city makes, even those that are less than desirable. Here is one such list that Chicago tops, and though it’s negative, it certainly comes as no surprise.

Chicago is the most publicly corrupt city in the country, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study reports there were 1,531 convictions for public corruption from 1976 through 2010 in the Northern District of Illinois, which is the federal court district dominated by Chicago.

Next on the list, though not that close, was the Central District of California, where Los Angeles is located, with 1,275 convictions during the same time period. The Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, came in third with 1,202 convictions.

The Executive Mansion is home to the Governor of Illinois.

The data also showed Illinois to be the third most corrupt state in the country.

Since 1976, 1,828 Illinois residents have been convicted of public corruption in Illinois – an average of 51 per year. Illinois is surpassed only by California with 2,345 convictions (65 per year) and New York with 2,522 convictions (70 per year).

Dick Simpson, who served as Chicago alderman for the 44th Ward in Lakeview from 1971-79, co-authored the report.

“For a century and a half, public corruption has been a shameful aspect of both Illinois and Chicago politics. The Governor’s mansion and Chicago City Council Chambers have long been the epicenters of public corruption. The extent and pervasiveness of bribery, fraud, stealing from the taxpayers, and illegal patronage have made the city and state national leaders of corruption.

“Our notorious reputations have provided fodder for scores of comedians and late night talk show hosts. But corruption is a serious problem that hurts all citizens who put their trust – and tax dollars – in the hands of politicians who abuse the power they are given.”

Ironically, the study was released the day it was announced that former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich would be serving his 14-year prison term in Colorado. He is set to report to jail on March 15. No politically corrupt Illinois politician has been made fun of more in the media.

What’s not funny is that Blagojevich’s trial cost Illinois taxpayers money we don’t have, and his actions led to the lowering of the state’s bond rating, which cost an already financially ruined Illinois more than $20 million during its last bond issue.

“Corruption is not funny and it is not free,” said Simpson. “It costs the taxpayers of Illinois more than $500 million per year.

“And so it goes – in a time of deep budget deficits, we are wasting taxpayer money and raising taxes and fees on citizens who can ill afford to pay for corruption any longer.”

The report insists the need for reforms to be enacted. Among the suggestions:

*Limit the amount of campaign money legislative leaders can contribute to other legislative candidates.

*Amend the City’s Ethics Ordinance to cover aldermen and their staff.

*Give the Inspector General access to all city documents including those held secret by the Corporation Counsel.

*Ban gifts to all elected officials and public employees except those from family members.

*Bar all lobbying of other governmental bodies by elected officials and city employees.

*Ban double dipping, patronage and nepotism and impose real penalties, including firing.

*Improve Chicago’s ethics training and bring it up to at least the State of Illinois level.

“There are many specific reforms to be enacted. But beyond all the individual reforms is the commitment to change,” said Simpson.

“After more than a hundred years of graft and corruption, it is time truly to become the Land of Lincoln and the City that Works rather than “Where’s Mine.”

To read the full report, click here.

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