Carol Marin: Illinois corruption stories keep coming

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The Cubs aren’t cursed.

Illinois is.

In just 11 days in October:

  • Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, admits the FBI seized her cell phone as it probes the fortuitous financial transactions of her and her husband. Though Brown shamelessly asserts that the office she’s led for four terms is a “model for the country,” it is more properly described as a patronage den and bureaucratic disaster of disappearing files and dinosaur age technology. But only now are Democratic committeemen cancelling their endorsement of her 2016 re-election.
  • Barbara Byrd-Bennett, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, pleads guilty in a bribery/kickback case involving $23 million in no-bid school contracts that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school board blindly rubber-stamped.
  • Sandi Jackson, former Chicago alderman, reports to federal prison as her ex-congressman husband, Jesse Jr., completes his sentence for using $750,000 in campaign cash to buy furs and fedoras.
  • Derrick Smith, former state representative, is ordered by a judge to quit stalling and get his sorry self to the slammer in a $7,000 bribery case.
  • Aaron Schock, former Peoria congressman under federal scrutiny for his accounting of campaign and expense money, inspires a House committee to set more stringent rules on reimbursements for office decoration, mileage and chartered planes.
  • Lawyers for Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House, announce he will plead guilty on Wednesday in a case involving $3.5 million in hush money to compensate for unspecified sexual misconduct.

And last but never least:

  • Rod “F’ing Golden” Blagojevich, our imprisoned former governor, pens a narcissistic jailhouse note to his daughter about Cubs games he can no longer attend with her, a note his wife, Patti, posts on Facebook during the playoffs so the public can feel his pain.

Seven headlines — 11 days — and we haven’t yet hit Halloween.


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In Illinois corruption stories drop like autumn leaves, so softly and so often, we hardly notice anymore.

I won’t digress to detail the willful, bipartisan dysfunction of our current governor and General Assembly, a failure which isn’t illegal but should be.

Or the drip, drip, drip of our tanking bond ratings.

Or the cruelly selective deprivation of state services to the poorest, most vulnerable among us as a mega-rich chief executive and well-compensated part-time legislature jockey for political primacy.

No, right now, let’s confine our conversation to federal investigations of criminality, abuse of power and plain old-fashioned greed.

And let’s ask if it is possible we are more wretched than ever?

“Yes,” is the grim assessment of Susan Garrett, chairman of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “Instead of getting better, it appears things continue to get worse,” says the former Democratic state senator from Lake Forest. “Citizens are numb to it.”

And the political class is as tone deaf as ever.

What else explains the morass at Dorothy Brown’s office, outrageous no-bid contracts at CPS, and public officials who mostly serve themselves?

If the system is unwilling to reform, apparently we voters are, too.

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