FEBRUARY 22, 2010
A major U.S. city long known as a hotbed of pay-to-play politics infested with clout and patronage has seen nearly 150 employees, politicians and contractors get convicted of corruption in the last five decades.
Chicago has long been distinguished for its pandemic of public corruption, but actual cumulative figures have never been offered like this. The astounding information is featured in a lengthy report published by one of Illinois’s biggest public universities.
Cook County, the nation’s second largest, has been a “dark pool of political corruption” for more than a century, according to the informative study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, the city’s largest public college. The report offers a detailed history of corruption in the Windy City beginning in 1869 when county commissioners were imprisoned for rigging a contract to paint City Hall.
It’s downhill from there, with a plethora of political scandals that include 31 Chicago alderman convicted of crimes in the last 36 years and more than 140 convicted since 1970. The scams involve bribes, payoffs, padded contracts, ghost employees and whole sale subversion of the judicial system, according to the report.
Elected officials at the highest levels of city, county and state government—including prominent judges—were the perpetrators and they worked in various government locales, including the assessor’s office, the county sheriff, treasurer and the President’s Office of Employment and Training. The last to fall was renowned political bully Isaac Carothers, who just a few weeks ago pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax charges.
In the last few years alone 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 earmarked for city jobs.
A few months ago the city’s largest newspaper revealed that Chicago aldermen keep a secret, taxpayer-funded pot of cash (about $1.3 million) 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 lawmakers but has escaped public scrutiny because it’s kept under wraps.
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. In November 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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