Illinois Grabs Corruption Title
by Jim Beam – The American Press (excerpt)
“If it isn’t the most corrupt state in the United States, it’s certainly one hell of a competitor.”
No, they aren’t talking about Louisiana this time. That is a comment from Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office. He made the remarks after federal agents arrested Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on political corruption charges. Blagojevich has been accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. The governor is out on bond and insists he hasn’t done anything wrong.
Authorities were surprised at comments Blagojevich made during wiretapped telephone calls. Grant said the governor has known for at least three years that he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud and clearly realized agents might be listening in. Conspiracy to commit fraud and solicitation to commit bribery are the charges filed against Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff. If convicted, they could get up to 20 years on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second.
Where’s the reform? What is most surprising to people around the country is the fact Blagojevich was elected in 2002 as a reform governor and was re-elected to another four-year term in 2006. The governor will have his day in court, but recent Illinois governors haven’t fared well in the judicial system. Former Republican Gov. George Ryan, the man Blagojevich succeeded, is serving a six-year term in prison for graft. Otto Kerner, the Democratic governor from 1961 to 1968, was convicted in 1973 on bribery, tax evasion and other counts. Former Democratic Gov. Dan Walker pleaded guilty to bank fraud, misapplication of funds and perjury charges after he left office in 1987.
“It’s a very sad day for Illinois government,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said Tuesday after the current governor was arrested. “Gov. Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree.”
Louisiana voters demonstrated with the election of former Govs. Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco and current Gov. Bobby Jindal that they will no longer tolerate corruption in this state’s highest office. Jefferson’s defeat is additional confirmation that the political winds are changing for the better. Thanks, Illinois, for proving Louisiana hasn’t cornered the market on political corruption.