NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Elected officials in a leading U.S. city long distinguished for its pandemic of public corruption keep a secret, taxpayer-funded slush fund to pay family members, campaign workers and political allies for a variety of questionable jobs.
The covert account has been utilized for decades by Chicago aldermen but has escaped public scrutiny because it’s kept under wraps. This week the Windy City’s local newspaper exposed the surreptitious pot of cash ($1.3 million a year) in a story that says the mayor is on the verge of asking a federal judge to end decades of court supervision over City Hall corruption.
Indeed Chicago is a hotbed of pay-to-play politics where clout and patronage are rampant. In the last few years several dozen officials have been convicted and more than 30 indicted for taking bribes, shaking down companies for political contributions and rigging hiring. Among the convictions were fraud, violating court orders against using politics as a basis for hiring city workers and the disappearance of 840 truckloads of asphalt intended for city jobs.
Earlier this year a Chicago alderman (Arenda Troutman) went to prison for accepting bribes from a developer in exchange for her support on building projects and another (Isaac Carothers) got indicted for taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a developer in return for his vote on zoning changes that resulted in lucrative profits for the contractor.
Not surprisingly Carothers, a prominent Democrat who has represented Chicago’s far west side since 1999, regularly dips into the stealth city account. He’s paid a relative more than $30,000 in the last year alone and claims all aldermen have family members on the payroll. The best part is that employees paid through the fund don’t show up on the regular city payroll.
Besides family members of city officials, they include campaign operatives, disgruntled city employees ousted for criminal behavior, a former mayoral aide convicted of rigging city hiring and a variety of folks who clearly don’t deserve to get tax dollars. About half a dozen of them are directly associated with a jailed mayoral aide convicted for rewarding political campaign workers with city jobs.
Judicial Watch has extensively investigated Chicago corruption, most recently the conflicted ties of top White House officials to the city, including Barack and Michelle Obama as well as top administration officials like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual and Senior Advisor David Axelrod. This month Judicial Watch sued Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s office to obtain records related to the president’s failed bid to bring the Olympics to the city.
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