Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reforming Illinois Politics: Where To Begin?

An essential element of any corrupt enterprise is that participants in it cannot trust each other until all of them have been compromised. All of them. That is fundamental.

Since our city government, state government and premier state university have all been shown to be corrupt enterprises, we should assume that all of the participants, at least all who were or should have been aware of the corrupt practices, are compromised. If anyone is serious about reforming any of these institutions, the crucial first step is to consider all current participants culpable. Until they are removed and replaced—all of them—reform will be illusory.

The recently-adopted ethics reforms you are hearing about are cynical frauds touted by cynical frauds.

Pat Quinn may be the qualified exception. He is shaping up as the last honest politician in Illinois, at least on the Democratic side. (Republicans aren’t excluded because they’re more honest, but because they scarcely matter. That might change.)

The best evidence that Quinn is honest is the way the rest of them are going after him. Part of their strategy is to paint him as dishonest. In psychology, that’s called ‘projection.’ They also say he stood by while Blagojevich made a hash of things. What exactly did comptroller and presumed Quinn primary opponent Dan Hynes, also a constitutional officer, do that Quinn did not to check the governor?

Is that the best argument they have? For that matter, is Hynes the best candidate they have? Does nominating a hereditary politician really say, “we get it about business as usual?” Of course it doesn’t, because they don’t.

Last week, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and House Republican Leader Tom Cross all declined to testify before Quinn’s Illinois Admissions Review Commission, which is investigating the corrupt practices at U of I. Madigan’s spokesperson said the Speaker “has little to contribute to the probe” because “he was only responding to constituent requests.” Some elaboration on that right there would surely interest the Mikva Commmission.

By snubbing the commission, they’re telling Quinn he has no juice.

Whatever else Lawrence Eppley may have done, he did the right thing today by resigning and calling out both his fellow trustees and top university officials. He might just as well have mentioned every legislator who ever put in a good word for an applicant. It is a corrupt system and they are all part of it.

Eppley testified to the Mikva Commission that he wasn’t Blagojevich's go-between, even though he forwarded admissions requests from the governor's office. According to the Chicago Tribune, which has been vilified for reporting the U of I clout story, Eppley told the commission he didn't expect that passing along student names would give applicants special treatment.

Presumably, he said this with a straight face.

The 48th Ward Democrats Summer Picnic is Thursday, August 6, from 6 PM to 8 PM, at 4921 N. Marine Dr. near the Margate Park field house. New County Commissioner Bridget Gainer will be there, so will Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. It is being hosted by Alderman Mary Ann Smith, State Representative Harry Osterman, State Senator Heather Steans, and the aforementioned Gainer and Schakowsky. The invitation came from Steans’ predecessor, current 48th Ward Committeeman Carol Ronen, whose eight weeks in the Blagojevich administration got her a $38,000 pension bump. (That whole sordid tale is here.)

So, yes, it is all of them.

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