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Corrupt Illinois

Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality

Thomas J. Gradel
Dick Simpson
Foreword by Jim Edgar
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Corrupt Illinois
    Book Description:

    Public funds spent on jets and horses. Shoeboxes stuffed with embezzled cash. Ghost payrolls and incarcerated ex-governors. Illinois' culture of "Where's mine?" and the public apathy it engenders has made our state and local politics a disgrace. In Corrupt Illinois , veteran political observers Dick Simpson and Thomas J. Gradel take aim at business-as-usual. Naming names, the authors lead readers through a gallery of rogues and rotten apples to illustrate how generations of chicanery have undermined faith in, and hope for, honest government. From there, they lay out how to implement institutional reforms that provide accountability and eradicate the favoritism, sweetheart deals, and conflicts of interest corroding our civic life. Corrupt Illinois lays out a blueprint to transform our politics from a pay-to-play–driven marketplace into what it should be: an instrument of public good.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09703-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Jim Edgar

    I have known many good men and women in politics and government over my career. They have served the public interest well.

    However, as Tom Gradel and Dick Simpson conclusively prove inCorrupt Illinois,there is a dark side to our political history as well. Corruption has too often flourished. More than two thousand people in government in Illinois have been convicted on corruption charges in federal court over the last few decades. It is shameful that the Chicago metropolitan region is the most corrupt in the nation and that the state of Illinois is the third most corrupt state....

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Corrupt Illinois
    (pp. 1-15)

    PUBLIC CORRUPTION HAS BESMIRCHED Illinois politics for a century and a half. Even before Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, the people of the state were exposed to outrageous corruption scandals. There was, for instance, Paul Powell, a downstater, former secretary of state, and old-style politician. He died leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars from cash bribes hoarded in shoeboxes in his closet. There were the thirteen judges nabbed in Operation Greylord who were convicted for fixing court cases.

    Four of the last nine governors of Illinois went to jail—Otto...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Machine Politics and Stolen Elections
    (pp. 17-35)

    JIM NOWLAN AND HIS COAUTHORS in their book on Illinois politics repeat the story told by the former congressman and judge Abner Mikva to the University of Illinois at Chicago professor Milton Rakove about his experience as a college student. He was trying to volunteer to work in elections for the Democratic party, so he went to see his local Chicago Democratic ward committeeman. “I came in and said I wanted to help. Dead silence. ‘Who sent you?’ the committeeman said. I said, ‘Nobody.’ He said, ‘We don’t want nobody nobody sent.’ Then he said, ‘We ain’t got no jobs.’...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Sorry State of Illinois
    (pp. 37-51)

    ILLINOIS IS ONE OF THE MOST CORRUPT STATES in the nation. Not only is Chicago corrupt, but the suburbs, downstate towns, and statewide officials share in this corruption. Former Governor Rod Blagojevich is the undisputed champion of modern Illinois corruption. He is the only governor to be impeached and thrown out of office even before he was convicted.

    One of the most unusual aspects of Blagojevich’s case is that he was recorded on FBI wiretaps spelling out blatant details of his proposed deals. We hear him in his own voice talking about putting his private gain above public good and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Aldermanic Corruption
    (pp. 53-69)

    WHILE PUBLIC CORRUPTION IS A PROBLEM throughout Illinois, its epicenter is Chicago and Chicago’s suburbs. The six-county Chicago metropolitan region contains nearly two-thirds of the state’s population, so naturally more corruption occurs there. Moreover, machine politics and corruption appeared first in Cook County and were then copied in other parts of the state. As the cases of aldermanic corruption illustrate well, machine politics provides the institutional base for corruption.

    Former Alderman Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak is the poster boy for that aldermanic corruption. He is one of the colorful rogue aldermen in the tradition of “Bathhouse” John Coughlin, “Hinky Dink”...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Chicago City Haul
    (pp. 71-91)

    PUBLIC CORRUPTION IN CHICAGO has a long history, dating from the first scandal involving Chicago aldermen and Cook County commissioners in the 1860s. Often, elected officials such as Governor Rod Blagojevich, Alderman “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak, or Congressman Dan Rostenkowski attract the most media and public attention, but the legion of appointed officials at city hall, the County Building, suburban city halls, and the state capitol carry out more pervasive levels of patronage, nepotism, machine politics, and corruption.

    We begin with the cautionary tale of the former Chicago alderman and city clerk James Laski, who relates how machine politics drew him...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Crook County
    (pp. 93-115)

    CORRUPTION—LIKE PATRONAGE WORKERS, favor seekers, and lobbyists—flows easily back and forth between Chicago city hall and the Cook County side of the building that the two governments share. It hardly matters on which side of the building a particular scandal erupts, since both the city and county governments are integral parts of a single system of machine politics.

    Lead roles in the “Crook County” saga were played by three political powerhouses: County Board Presidents George W. Dunne and John Stroger, and the ultimate Boss, Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Cook County Democratic party....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Suburban Scandals
    (pp. 117-129)

    CHICAGO ATTRACTS LOCAL, NATIONAL, and even international attention for its long and salient culture of corruption, but the media and the public tend to overlook the abundant political corruption that also exists in many of the region’s suburbs. Patronage, nepotism, cronyism, abuse of power, and criminal activity flourish, sometimes for decades, in numerous town halls, police stations, and special-purpose government agencies in the suburbs. Public corruption has afflicted the north, south, and west suburbs. It impacts upper-income and lower-income villages, towns, and cities.

    More than 130 individuals have been convicted of corruption-related schemes in the suburbs since the 1970s. One...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Police Abuse and Corruption
    (pp. 131-149)

    BY HIS ACTIONS AT JESSE’S SHORTSTOP INN on the night of February 19, 2007, the twelve-year veteran police officer Anthony Abbate demonstrated that he strongly believed, as many police officers do, that he could break the law with impunity. He believed that victims and onlookers would be afraid to report his actions. And if they did, his fellow officers would intimidate witnesses, hide the evidence, and cover up his crimes. Every police officer knew by this time about the cover-up of torture in a South Side police station, about cops working together to shake down taverns, and how police sometimes...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Jailbird Judges and Crooked Courts
    (pp. 151-165)

    RICHARD LEFEVOUR WAS A LOYAL, hard-working member of the Cook County Democratic machine before he was appointed an associate judge in 1969. As a reward for his work with the party, he was slated for election to a full judgeship in 1974. He and his wife, Virginia, worked in the mayoral elections of Richard J. Daley and helped Richard M. Daley win election as Cook County state’s attorney. Virginia was chair of Women for Daley in the campaign, and Judge LeFevour was given the honor of swearing in State’s Attorney Daley when he took office.

    No wonder Judge LeFevour was...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Congressional Corruption
    (pp. 167-191)

    UNTIL 1992, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois) lived a charmed life. He got an early start in politics; he had family and political connections; he breezed up the ladder of success and became one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. He was at the top of his game and had become a friend and confidant of three successive presidents before his political life began to unravel.

    Rostenkowski was born into a family that had more money and resources than most of its working-class neighbors. Young Dan was sent to a private boarding school in Wisconsin, away from the temptations...

  15. CHAPTER 11 Ending the Culture of Corruption
    (pp. 193-208)

    Corruption has been woven into the fabric of government from Chicago’s city hall to Illinois’ governor’s mansion. It extends from downstate towns to sacred courtrooms. It morphs from simple bribes for building inspectors to multimillion-dollar crooked contracts. It is stitched onto nearly every aspect of our government ever since Illinois was a territory. It blossomed into full bloom after the Chicago Fire, when political-party machines systematized the “Chicago way” of corruption. Machine and machine-like political parties then spread throughout the state. Over the last century, they have institutionalized corruption and created the culture of corruption. This has made Illinois the...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 209-210)
  17. APPENDIX I. Highlights in Illinois’ History of Corruption, 1833 to 2014
    (pp. 211-216)
  18. APPENDIX II. Illinois Governors, 1961–2014
    (pp. 217-219)
  19. APPENDIX III. Chicago Mayors, 1955–2014
    (pp. 220-221)
  20. APPENDIX IV. U.S. Attorneys for the Northern District of Illinois, 1964–2014
    (pp. 222-224)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 225-260)
  22. Index
    (pp. 261-270)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-274)