Background information: In the USA, each State has its own laws, some of which are superceded by Federal law (ie. The White House) and some not. Each state is governed by, well a governor, who really is the Big Cheese. Examples of state governors include Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bushie boy.
On Tuesday morning, the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich (pronounced Blagoyavitch), was arrested on corruption charges. He is accused of trying to sell Obama's old Senate seat to the higest bidder, among other things. FBI wire taps have him as saying:
"F**k Obama, ...I want to make money....If I don't get what I want...I'll just take the Senate seat myself".
And on another occasion, saying that Obama's senate seat "is a ---- valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing". Apparently, even "by Chicago's standards" this has reached a new low.
This was breaking news on CNN all over the country. In Chicago, I'm afraid it's par for the course. If convicted, he will be the fourth Governor of Illinois in the last 40 years to go to prison! Is everyone here as lacking in moral fiber/fibre as Mr. Blagojevich you must be thinking. Well, let's look at the last few decades. We've had-
- George Ryan, the 74 year old governor before Blagojevich, who is now sitting in the state clink on similar charges; (solicitation of bribes, mail fraud and racketeering)
- Scott Farwell, Ryan's Chief of Staff, also in there on similar charges
- Nicholas Blase, the 80 year old Mayor of suburban Niles, recently plead guilty to Federal corruption charges including mail fraud and trying to muscle local businesses into buying insurance from an agency that then netted him about $420,000 over 20 years
- the township of Cicero, once run by Al Capone, has a colourful recent history. In 1990 its Town President (mayor) Frank Maltese plead guilty to mob-related gambling charges. Facing prison in 1993, he appointed his wife, Betty Loren Maltese in his place. (He then died.) In 2002 Betty was also convicted on federal corruption charges (mob-related) and indicted in a scheme to steal $12 million from the town treasury. Just before her sentencing, she suddenly adopted a 5 year old child out of nowhere (Betty being in her 60s), allegedly in the hope that this would keep her out of prison. No chance. After sentencing her to eight years, she was given time to put her affairs in order, which to Betty, meant going off to Vegas and spending all the stolen money. The Feds had to go and bring her back to Chicago.
- perhaps the most famous in recent years is Dan Rostenkowski, a former US Representative for Illinois, and Chairman of the mighty Ways and Means Committee. He was indicted in 1994 in the House Post Office scandal and served 15 months in federal prison. He was found guilty of having ghost employees on his payroll, (ie. got paid but never came to work), using Congressional funds to buy gifts for friends and family, and trading in officially purchased stamps for cash at the House post office. Incredibly, he is still entitled to his pension, which is between $97,000 and $125,000 per year.
- October 2000 -William Hanhardt, a retired chief of detectives with the Chicago Police Department, was indicted along with 5 others for master-minding a nationwide jewelry theft ring.
- at the moment we have Tony Rezko, political fund-raiser (wink wink)awaiting a January 6th sentencing for organizing a $7 million kickback scheme for Blagojevich's admninistration.
And then there were the Operations:
Operation Greylord (so named for the curly wigs worn by English judges)-
This was a huge investigation in the 1980s, which resulted in 92 indictments. The arrested individuals included 17 judges, 48 lawyers, 10 deputy sherrifs, 8 policemen, 8 court officials and 1 State legislator. (The partridge got off with a caution.)
Operation Silver Shovel (1992-5)-
..resulted in 18 corruption charges of city officials. The rackets included (but were not limited to) pulic officials misusing their office, labour union corruption, drug-trafficking and organized crime activity. $2.2 million was found to have been "laundered". Some of these convictions were subseuqntly challenged as one of the Federal judges involved was also found to be taking bribes!
Do you get the picture? And you don't have to be a bigshot politician to play the game. It's commonly accepted for example, that if I want a speed bump/sleeping policeman put in our street (to stop cars speeding down to beat the lights at the south end), I will have to cosy up to my local alderwoman, which translates as making a financial donation to her office. This hasn't come from her, it's just how you get things done around here.
Doing any building work on your house? You'll need an armful of permits, but let me make a call to a friend who works in the Zoning department here. As some of you will be aware, Chicago is in the bidding war for the 2016 Olympics. I hate to think what will come to light if we do get them. Everything has a price.
You'd think a well-behaved lass from the north of England would be shocked by all this "mob related activity'. Heck no - I live a stone's throw from the Biograph Theatre - the place where the gangster John Dillinger was famously shot and killed.
It's safe to say that Chicago wins the prize for the most corrupt city in the USA.