Year in and year out Illinois has been the main topic of corruption among various state political leaders and organizations. As if Illinois’ illegal corruption problem wasn’t bad enough, a new Harvard University study ranks the state of Illinois among the worst for “legal corruption” as well.
The study defines legal corruption as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.” Illinois is one of only seven states ranking in the top quartile in both corruption categories – illegal and legal. There are seven states ranking in the least corrupt quartile for both categories, including neighboring Michigan. Illinois is one of the few states that allow select lawmakers to also serve as a lobbyist.
With four of the last seven Illinois Governors having served jail time, Illinois residences are becoming more leary of all local politicians. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, his wife, and his brother-in-law have been previously under federal criminal investigation for a property tax appeal that came up during Pritzker’s 2018 campaign. Campaign finance investigation may be on the horizon for this multi-millionaire that has admitted to offshore accounts.
Illinois’ most controlling politician Mike Madigan has stayed under the radar but has recently been rumored to be under investigation. A Chicago Tribune media report in 2014 found more than 400 current or retired government employees who worked elections for Madigan, donated regularly to his campaigns, registered voters on his behalf or circulated candidate petitions for him. One of his staff has also been questioned. The report revealed Illinois’ chief financial watchdog, Auditor General Frank Mautino, used his influence as a state representative to secure two staff assistant positions at IDOT. One individual previously worked at Mautino’s family distributor business. Mautino has also been under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations.
Recently State Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, has been arrested on public corruption charges. This arrest gained attention on the backdoor lobbying a situation that gained the spotlight with Arroyo’s alleged bribery. He is accused of trying to bribe a senator to support legislation to legalize video “sweepstakes” games while Arroyo was also lobbying the Chicago City Council on the matter. U.S. Federal prosecutors say the unnamed state senator in the Arroyo case was wearing a recording device as he has cooperated with the government in hopes of leniency in a pending case alleging he filed false income tax returns.
The other Democrat facing legal problems is Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat who has been charged with multiple federal counts of embezzlement for allegedly accepting more than $250,000 in salary and benefits as a Teamsters union organizer while doing little or no work.
Another former Democratic Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to accepting $250,000 in bribes to protect local cities’ red-light camera enforcement programs and following federal criminal charges against two other Democratic lawmakers, which forced Pritzker encouraged lawmakers to “urgent action to restore the public’s trust in our government.”
Interestingly, many of Illinois media sources believe the state has a worse legal-corruption problem than an illegal-corruption problem. The correction is to vote out many of the names above and enact a term-limit to help control future corruption.
Illinois’ illegal-corruption ranking scores by branch
Executive: 3 – moderately common: Legislative: 4 – very common: Judicial: 2 – slightly common
Illinois legal-corruption ranking scores by branch Executive: 4 – very common: Legislative: 5 – extremely common: Judicial: 3 – moderately common