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Latest Corruption Report Says Illinois Is Just As Corrupt As Ever

By Sam Stecklow in News on Mar 11, 2016 5:51PM

City Hall, via senor codo/Flickr

Last year was a "banner year" for corruption in Chicago, the suburbs, and downstate, according to a new report from University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson and three co-authors. "No matter how you slice it, 2015 was a bad year for public corruption in our state," Simpson said in a statement.

The report found 27 convictions, 28 indictments, 11 investigations launched, and the sentencing of 30 people relating to public and white-collar corruption in the state. Simpson also notes the extremely low polling on how many Illinoisans trust their state government—25 percent—especially when compared with other states, which have an average of 62 percent.

Among the highest-profile cases outlined in the report are that of Dennis Hastert, the downstate Republican and former Speaker of the House, who was indicted by federal officials for illegally withdrawing almost $2 million to pay off a former student of his he allegedly sexually molested; the Laquan McDonald cover-up; and Barbara Byrd-Bennett's $20 million no-bid contract that she granted to her former employer, SUPES Academy.

Simpson concluded the report with recommendations for reforms, including public funding of political campaigns; a fair remap of all legislative districts; increased citizen participation in elections and government; strengthening inspector generals and creating a suburban inspector general; fundamental changes in the Chicago Police Department; preventing public officials from representing private individuals and corporations for profit before other units of government, and making public information available in more useable forms on the internet in a structured, open and searchable manner.

Chicago is no stranger to corruption accusations (so much so that the phrase "Chicago-style politics" has been used as a four-letter word); most recently, Simpson's 2015 corruption report found Chicago's judicial district has the most corruption in the U.S.