The Corrupt Politics of Illinois

John ArmstrongPolitics

Well, as I long expected, Governor Rod Blagojevich will likely join his predecessor, Governor George Ryan, in prison. I am glad the "pay to play" schemes we have heard about for more than two years are finally out in the open before the public. The States Attorney did his job and the governor will now fall. The people of this state will be much better off when this man is gone. The sad fact, however, is this—my state is filled with this type of political greed and corruption. It has been for fifty-plus years. The Daley machine started it, or at least mastered it, and state leaders from both parties have followed the pattern for more than fifty years.
I have lived in Illinois since 1969. Four governors will have gone to prison in my time in the state. Is another state remotely close to this ignominious record?

The most striking of the two indictments against Governor Blagojevich was his attempt to sell the senate seat once held by the president-elect. (We can thank God that there is NO evidence that Barack Obama was ever involved in any of this corruption, though obviously members of his own party were deeply involved.) The 75 pages of material given to the public this morning includes one expletive after another and reveals Rod Blagojevich to be a man who is thoroughly corrupt, both morally and politically. And this man saw himself as a serious candidate for the White House at one time. What hubris!

Last week our senator, Richard Durbin, asked President Bush to pardon former-governor George Ryan (at right) before he left office in January. The outpouring of mail to both Durbin and the White House has been so overwhelmingly stacked against this decision that it has sullied Durbin for even making this appeal in the first place. Durbin has always been seen as a clean guy but his judgment is now seen as less than sterling for even making his appeal in the first place. George Ryan, for those who do not recall, is in prison for using his influence as the Secretary of State to sell licenses for campaign cash. The result was not only a time of profound corruption but the tragic death, on the Illinois Tollway, of the six children of my friends, Pastor Scott and Janet Willis. To release Ryan would probably disgust me personally as much or more as any pardon in my lifetime. The man is totally lacking in remorse and has been given several opportunities to seek the forgiveness of Scott and Janet personally. He has refused and thus shown he has no desire for repentance toward these dear people who lost their family because of a corrupt leader. With the cash Ryan made in his scheme he then ran for and won the governor's office in Illinois.

The good news is that the same newspaper, The Chicago Tribune, that vetted Ryan and Blagojevich also looked into the life and career of Barack Obama more than any newspaper in America. It found nothing to suggest any criminal activity. The Tribune was critical of his association with Tony Rezko, who is now in jail himself, but found no legal or moral failure in Obama. I see nothing to implicate Obama in any of this.

We who live in this state would love to see a new wave of reform sweep across the prairie state but I am not so sure we will get it unless we get a leader who is outside the system of our two parties and untouched by Chicago. How likely is that? We could use a really good "cleansing" to say the least. God have mercy on this state. We need it now as much as at any point in my nearly forty years here. The whole rotting mess makes truly good people want to steer away from governing. It makes us all cynical in this state.