By Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune –
CHICAGO — The Chicago area logged the most public corruption convictions of any federal jurisdiction in the United States during the past 36 years, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Federal prosecutors secured a total of 1,531 public corruption convictions in the Northern District of Illinois since 1976, said Dick Simpson, head of the university’s political science department.
Meanwhile, Illinois logged 1,828 public corruption convictions, the third most of any state, according to the report. Only California and New York had more.
But those states are much larger than Illinois. On a per-person basis, only the District of Columbia and Louisiana had more convictions than Illinois, according to the report.
Four governors, two congressmen, a state treasurer, an attorney general, 11 state legislators, numerous judges and dozens of aldermen have been convicted since the 1970s, according to the report, “Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption.”
“For a long time — going back at least to the Al Capone era — Chicago and Illinois have been known for high levels of public corruption, Simpson said. “But now we have the statistics that confirm their dishonorable and notorious reputations. … The two worst crime zones in Illinois are the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield and the City Council Chambers in Chicago.”
“Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country, and Illinois is probably the third-most corrupt state in the nation,” Simpson said at a City Hall news conference.
Simpson and Jim Nowlan, a senior fellow with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, released the report as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ethics task force prepares to hold its first public hearing Wednesday evening.
Simpson said he plans to make a series of recommendations at the hearing, including compelling the city’s top attorney to release documents he has refused to provide to the city’s inspector general on the basis of attorney-client privilege.
The professor also wants ethics the inspector general to be able to investigate aldermen and their staffs. And he would like to see better city ethics training.
“The city’s ethics training is a joke,” Simpson said during a news conference at City Hall. “We need real ethics training, because people in this build don’t seem to have it.”