EDITORIAL: Should a candidate for attorney general hire a guy who scammed Illinois?

SHARE EDITORIAL: Should a candidate for attorney general hire a guy who scammed Illinois?

State Sen. Kwame Raoul makes his pitch for Illinois Attorney General during the Cook County Democratic endorsement sessions in 2017. | Logan Javage/For the Sun-Times

We’re all for giving ex-offenders a second chance.

But, in making that argument, we’ve always had in mind the former addict who wrote a few bad checks. Or the high school dropout who fenced some stolen electronics because he couldn’t find a decent-paying job.

The sort of fellow we probably didn’t have in mind is Bamani Obadele, though we wish him well.

Obadele, a South Side activist and preacher, served a six-month prison sentence for steering state money to private companies he controlled while he was external affairs director for the Department of Children and Family Services in the early 2000s. He didn’t run afoul of the law out of desperation. He exploited a good state job.

In the Democratic primary, Obadele worked for state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who is running for attorney general. A spokesman for Raoul, Ron Holmes, says Obadele also will be considered for work again once the campaign gears up later this year.

Obadele got his DCFS job via his friendship with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, despite questions then about his qualifications. Since serving his time, he’s worked for other political campaigns. He doesn’t lack for connections who can help him find work.

We’ve considered the rationale offered by Raoul’s camp. Obadele did “great work for us, and that’s how we judge people,” Holmes says. “He served his time, spent a year on probation and hasn’t had so much as a parking ticket since then.”

Holmes points out that Raoul also has hired ex-offenders in his district office, and has a track record of advocating for re-entry programs.

But Raoul, a highly respected politician from Hyde Park, should know better than to allow even a whiff of scandal, dishonesty or illegality involving state money near his campaign. He’s running to be the state’s top law enforcement officer.

The optics, as they say, are bad.

If Raoul wins in November, are we going to see Obadele’s name on a state payroll?

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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