By John Ruberry
Chicago’s reputation for corruption is well-known and it centers on the most shameless legislative body in the nation, its City Council. Since 1973, an astounding 35 Chicago aldermen–some after leaving office–have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of crimes.
That sounds bad–and it indeed it is. Chicago’s City Council has 50 members–which is way too many, but that’s a subject for another time. Of this un-august body, Wikipedia writes, “Between 1973 and 2012, 31 aldermen were convicted of corruption. Approximately 100 aldermen served in that period, which is a conviction rate of about one-third.” Imagine if the US House of Representatives had a similar level of criminality–a second American revolution might be the result.
But Chicagoans keep electing crooks to the Council. Four wards have scored the Corruption Trifecta, the 23rd, the 28th, the 31st, and with this year’s guilty plea of Willie Cochran, the 20th. Each of these wards have three crooked alderman on their roll of dishonor. Arguably the worst of the three is the 28th, which has seen a father and his son go from City Hall to the House With Many Doors. Chicago voters, do you realize how stupid you are?
Aldermanic criminal roundups in Chicago come in waves, the mid-1970s saw an uptick in convictions as did the mid-1980s. The Operation Silver Shovel probe led to six federal indictments in the late 1990s, in that haul a sanctimonious self-described liberal do-gooder, Lawrence Bloom, was nabbed.
A new wave of indictments and convictions–the feds rarely lose Chicago corruption cases–may be upon us. Former 25th Ward alderman Danny Solis was wearing a wire to aid the investigation of Ald. Ed Burke of the 14th Ward. Burke, as I wrote in this space earlier this year, is a walking advertisement for term limits. He succeeded his father who died in office in 1969 and for much of that time as an alderman he’s served as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, that sad body’s most powerful committee. Burke was named in a federal criminal complaint shortly after New Year’s Day and he was indicted for racketeering, extortion and attempted bribery in May.
Burke is the member of the City Council with the most tenure. What about the one with the second-longest time as an alderman? That person is Carrie Austin of the 34th Ward, who was appointed to that seat by Mayor Richard M. Daley after the death of her husband. A week-and-a-half after the Burke indictment her ward office was raided by federal agents. The Burke criminal complaint was preceded by FBI raids on his City Hall and ward offices.
Last week it was reported that the home of former alderman 23rd Ward Michael Zalewski was raided by the feds in May. If you are paying close attention you will have noticed that the 23rd Ward is one of those with three aldermanic convictions since 1973. Speculation is that the feds might really be after longtime Illinois House speaker and chairman of the state Democratic Party, Michael Madigan. Around that same time the home of another close Boss Madigan ally, Kevin Quinn, was also raided by federal authorities. He’s the brother of 13th Ward alderman Marty Quinn. Madigan is the Democratic committeeman of the 13th Ward.
As for Madigan, he might be too slippery of a fish for federal authorities. He does not use email. Is Madigan afraid of a trail of facts?
Let me veer off the aldermanic trail for a bit longer. Madigan’s daughter, Lisa, chose not to run for reelection last year after four terms as Illinois attorney general. Burke’s wife is a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court.
Pass the popcorn and keep your eyes on Chicago’s City Hall. And the haul of crooks by the feds just might extend beyond the City Council.
Meanwhile Chicago keeps losing population as does the rest of the state.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.