Here we go! The Illinois gubernatorial election approaches with an overload of baggage. The term of Bruce Rauner has been an unfolding disaster. We are in massive debt; “downstate” passionately desires Chicago to secede from the rest of the rest of Illinois (up to the point of revenue generation); public education slides toward bankruptcy; Mike Madigan exercises a refinement of “Boss politics” (a Daley family legacy); and the state infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes. Pensions are at risk and no one can figure out how to pass a budget. Every poll I’ve seen ranks Illinois as one of the worst run, most corrupt states in the union. Charming.
We need to stop and reflect on the consequences of being a Blue Dog/Democratic state. It has done the people of Illinois little good. More than the classic tax-and-spend characterization of Democrats, the party, by accident or intent, stumbles over itself at every crooked turn. Springfield is a snake-pit of no-bid contracts, deal making, and kickback opportunism. Four of the last seven governors have been jailed. Rod Blagojevich (D) was convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Dan Walker (D), governor from 1973 through 1977, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and other charges in 1987 related to his business activities after leaving office. Otto Kerner (D), governor from 1961 through 1968, spent three years in prison after being convicted of bribery related charges. George Ryan (R) was found guilty and jailed for fraud and racketeering charges as both Secretary of State and governor. A tenured felon.
How can we forget the venerable Secretary of State (’65-’70), Paul Powell (D)? Though his salary was never more than thirty thousand dollars per year, when he died, his room was found to contain eight-hundred thousand dollars in cash and checks kept in shoe boxes, briefcases, and strong boxes, as well as nineteen cases of whiskey and one million dollars in racing stock, leaving an estate of 4.6 million. During his tenure, fees for automobile licensing and registration were made to “Paul Powel-Secretary of State” or simply “Paul Powell.” That made it simple!
Party affiliation pales in the presence of the black hole of corruption that permeates our state. Republican State Rep. Jeanne Ives faces fellow Republican Rauner in the primary. At a recent event, she argued the solution to the state’s gun violence was having “more fathers in the home.” While this is tone-deaf to the complexity of the issue, it doesn’t appear to be color-blind. Some of the Democratic contenders are State Senator Daniel Biss and Chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees Chris Kennedy. The spigot of campaign spending from candidate J.B.Pritzker borders on obscene. The historic truth is “money does not make for sound governing policy.” Toss in a handful of insignificant and third-party aspirants, you have a circus.
The only event with as much entertainment value is the coming Chicago mayoral election. Big fun ahead!
- J. Tortorici