Thursday, January 29, 2009

What Are The Chances For Real Change In Illinois?

It has been noted that, despite the reputation of Illinois for political corruption, this is the state’s first gubernatorial impeachment.

It should also be noted that while many Illinois public officials, including several governors, have been tried and convicted for criminal offenses, no major public corruption case has ever been brought by an Illinois prosecutor. They have all been federal, investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Like this one.

The Illinois General Assembly has done its duty by removing Rod Blagojevich, but it needs to do much more. Everyone involved in Illinois government must concede what they all know. Corruption here is routine and Governor Blagojevich’s offense was one of scale, not of type.

Even in corrupt systems, there are sometimes limits. The guys behind the guys set those limits. Exceed them and you threaten the entire, corrupt edifice. Therefore, any person who goes off the reservation like Blagojevich did must be removed. It always goes down the same way. Federal authorities mysteriously receive enough evidence to begin an investigation. In time, they receive enough evidence to convict the targeted individual, and perhaps some co-conspirators, but never those at the center of the web.

Look at the Michael Segal, Near North Insurance case (2002-2004). One day he was favored, friend to the great and near great, then he was a goat. What changed? Did the feds just happen to discover his crimes or had he outlived his usefulness? Who made that decision?

It is likely that the prosecutions of Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine and Ali Ata were probably meant to send a message to Blagojevich, to get with the program or he would be next. He didn't and he was.

What does it say that not one of these guys has sung? Not one has told the tale and really laid out how it all works and who calls the shots. Once convicted, they quietly do their time. Levine sang, of course, which netted Rezko and others, but he has probably told all he knows. Segal, Ryan, and Sorich (Mayor Daley's patronage guy) have all been mum. Not one of them has told the whole story. Why is that?

It is hard to discuss the corruption of government in Illinois without reference to Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. He calls it "the combine." Its members consist of corrupt political leaders, both public office-holders and private citizens, Democrats and Republicans. The third leg is organized crime.

Because they are all part of a criminal enterprise, they value secrecy and eschew publicity. Anyone who calls too much attention to themselves has to be removed. Periodic demonstrations of this fact, including evidence that even a governor is not immune, serve their purpose. In itself, the removal, conviction and imprisonment of Rod Blagojevich does nothing to change the system.

Only when crime doesn’t pay will it cease.

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