Another day, another indicted politician. Senator Tom Cullerton was arraigned last week on federal embezzlement charges.
If you remember, Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), the cousin of Senate President John Cullerton, was indicted on federal charges a few weeks ago for embezzlement after receiving a salary and pension benefits with the Teamsters union for doing little to no work.
After calls for him to resign from Republican Party officials, how did members of his own party react? They swapped his chairman appointment from the Labor committee to the Veterans Affairs’ committee so he can keep his chairman stipend that is upward of $10,000 while making it look like they are doing something.
Why has the faux outrage subsided? Will there be continuous calls for him to resign? Will his arraignment fly quietly under the radar? Or will another alligator plopped into the Humboldt Park lagoon take precedence over the constant and persistent corruption in Illinois and Chicago?
Let’s not forget that the indictment of Cullerton comes after the whirlwind of investigations and raids against those close to Speaker Mike Madigan. The FBI conducted search warrants at the homes of former Chicago alderman Mike Zalewski, former legislator turned lobbyist Mike McClain, and former 13th Ward political operative Kevin Quinn, who Madigan previously ousted for allegations of sexual harassment.
There is also a new story from the Chicago Tribune reporting that 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn, Madigan’s handpicked alderman, is being investigated by a Cook County grand jury in regards to his petition challenging of his opponent, DePaul student David Krupa.
This begs the question of why now? Why is there a new found motivation to investigate and prosecute corruption?
It doesn’t take much research to understand why corruption has gone untouched for so long in Illinois.
We all know Speaker Madigan has been the one in charge of the state for decades. He yields his power with the support of House Democrats who continue to elect him Speaker and allow him to run the Democrat state party.
But they aren’t the only ones complicit. His daughter, Lisa Madigan, was the State’s Attorney General for 16 years (2003-19) and did little to curb public corruption.
The state’s current Auditor General, Frank Mautino, was previously under federal investigation for misusing campaign cash to enrich himself. These are the elected officials we have entrusted to investigate politicians.
As Rep. Grant Wehrli rightly said about Mautino, “Our auditor general cannot answer simple financial questions about the books that he was supposed to be in charge of and yet now he’s the fiscal watchdog for our state.”
Madigan was still able to fight off political retribution during the #metoo movement, despite the fact Madigan was caught failing to fill the vacancy of the Inspector General position for two years, leaving complaints unanswered and sent to an empty office never to be read. Madigan eventually appointed, Julie Porter, to temporarily fill the position, but she has since come out in an op-ed, outlying all the problems and restrictions that prevented her from doing her job and highlighting the broken system that allows misconduct to persist.
The constant corruption in our state has become a stereotype and a joke to those around the country and even amongst fellow Illinoisans.
A report by the Chicago Sun Times found that thirty-five Chicago aldermen have been convicted of crimes including extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery among them since the 1970s.
Four of the state’s last seven governors have gone to prison. Current Governor, J.B. Pritzker, is under investigation for removing toilets from his home in order to avoid higher property taxes.
But corruption has consequences and taxpayers are suffering for it. The Illinois Policy Institute conducted a study that found “Illinois’ public corruption convictions cost the state economy an estimated $550 million every year from 2000-2017.”
In 2012, the Paul Simon Institute found 76.8% of respondents agreed that corruption in Illinois government was widespread. Can anyone say that this has changed?
After all the data provided above, the answer is a resounding no.
Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the nation, the highest state and local tax burden, a highly regulatory environment for businesses, and one of only two states to continually lose population for the past decade.
How long will Illinoisans stand for the corruption and the over burdensome taxes?
Will the voters in Illinois remember the corruption and the leaders who allowed it to happen come 2020?
Or will we keep voting for the corruption and the failed leadership that has taken over our state?
In 2020, Illinoisans must stand together and support candidates that will relieve the tax burden, lead with integrity, and pass policies that will improve the lives of our families and our communities.