Illinois corruption investigation breaks wide open with guilty plea of state senator for bribery over red-light cameras and more

By John Ruberry

Last Sunday in this space I wrote about the need to ban red-light cameras in Illinois–and nationwide. One of the reasons I gave was that the easy cash collected from these “safety devices” fosters corruption. Oh, as far as safety, I mentioned in that post that the record on safety involving red-light cameras is at best mixed. They may even cause automobile accidents.

On Tuesday former Illinois state senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), who has close ties to longtime state House speaker Michael Madigan–who also is the chairman of the state Democratic Party–pleaded guilty to bribery, tax evasion, and extortion charges in federal court. Sandoval is now cooperating with the feds.

Sandoval is the former chairman of the senate Transportation Committee. Using the clout from that post, he promised to “go balls to the walls for anything you ask me” to a representative of the red-light camera firm referred to as “Company A” in the plea agreement.

So far that company has not been officially named but perhaps in a verbal misstep, told a judge, “I accepted money in exchange for the use of my office as a state senator to help SafeSpeed, or Company A.”

SafeSpeed denies wrongdoing and in a statement says it is cooperating with federal authorities. 

Politicians are nervous. This weekend on his Fox Chicago show Flannery Fired Up, host Mike Flannery said, “This red light camera company–suddenly candidates, Republicans and Democrats in Springfield and elsewhere are racing to get rid of this money as if it was infected with the coronavirus. ”

Prosecutors say that Sandoval accepted $250,000 in bribes, including $70,000 in bribes to benefit the red-light camera industry. 

It hardly seems that the industry needs the help. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, Illinois drivers have handed over $1.1 billion to municipalities in fines involving red-light camera infractions. Illinois’ largest city of course is Chicago so it won’t shock you that it has more red-light cameras than any American municipality. Chicago, as I also mentioned in last week’s DTG entry, has already endured its own red-light camera scandal. The central figure in that scandal worked his way up the ranks in Boss Madigan’s Chicago ward organization.

Part of the federal investigation involves lobbying done on the behalf of Commonwealth Edison, the local electrical utility.

As far as public interest, the jaded residents of Illinois will have reasons to keep their attention focused on these scandals. Why?

  • Because people hate utilities.
  • They hate red-light cameras.
  • They hate politicians.

Yes, people keep re-electing the latter, but Boss Michael Madigan, the Michelangelo of gerrymanderers, mocks the electoral system by creating legislative districts that all but ensures Democratic super-majorities in the Illinois General Assembly. 

And increasingly, people hate Illinois. The Prairie State has lost population for six straight years. And no, cold winters aren’t the reason. The states that border Illinois, as well as nearby Michigan, are gaining residents. 

As nauseum pols and media figures are calling–again–for “meaningful reform” in Illinois. Here are my suggestions: Amend the state constitution to ban gerrymandering, and bring term limits to the General Assembly–four terms in the House and two in the Senate. Majority leaders, minority leaders, House speakers and Senate president should be limited to four-year terms. And while we are amending the constitution, the pension guarantee clause needs to dropped, but while protecting those recipients on the lower and of the pension scale. 

Did you know that state legislators can be paid lobbyists? Ban that too.

Also, the state needs a strong inspector general with the power investigate General Assembly members. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Answering John Nolte’s Point

Yesterday I discovered John Nolte’s piece: Nolte: Impeachment Proves Nancy Pelosi Is an Idiot which is in stark contrast to my piece yesterday titled: The Left is Damn Lucky to Have Pelosi.

I read the Nolte’s piece and thought his points needed to be answered if I was going to dispute them.

First: Impeaching the President with No Crime

Impeachment wasn’t Pelsoi’s idea. With the Mueller report being a dud and the progressive caucus insisting on impeachment the idea is to glam onto something fast. This was it

Second: Impeaching the President for Asking for a Judicial Ruling

Pelosi not only knew that impeachment was a loser, but knew that the longer it went on the worse it would be. Litigation would only drag out the damage.

Third: There Was No Quid Pro Quo

This is true but irrelevant, when you’re making it up the point is just to make the argument and let the media carry it. They could have impeached him for a nosebleed in the capital, as long as it was impeachment.

Fourth: Rushing Impeachment

The question assumes the goal was to remove Trump Pelosi knew it would not happen (See #2) That impeachment will be done one day after Iowa give the candidates a reason to ignore it as old news.

Fifth: Sitting on the Impeachment Articles for a Month

I’ve got to admit this one confused me too, but again this move was driven by the big brains using twitter and was glammed onto by the base. Once the media was all into this she was too. This was all about appeasement of them.

Sixth: Demanding the Senate Do What She Refused to Do

This actually made a lot of sense. Given that all of this was a joke it was necessary to cast blame on something other than the house case for Impeachment failure. John’s fallacy here is the same one that many Nevertrumpers make. The audience for this pitch was not average people, it was the far left people who insisted on impeachment. Pelosi needed a scapegoat and this plan plus she had the media to push it.

Seventh: Terrible Choice of House Managers

This is again where John missed the mark this was the perfect pick for house managers. You needed managers who were hyper partisan who would satisfy the loony base from districts that are safe. What you didn’t want was to put a serious congressman from anything remotely resembling a swing district or a congressman who had the potential to be a national face of the party to try and justify this shit storm.


This wasn’t about raging incompetence, or age or even uninforced errors. Unlike the impeachment managers in 1996 who still believed that we had a shared set of values, Pelosi knew that this was a loser from day one. She held it off for as long as she could and when she figured out that the damage to her caucus from a divide would be greater than the damage from failure and there was always a million to one shot that the President’s team would do something stupid enough to make things work.

So she did it as fast as possible to minimize the damage to the party as a whole and to the members with the most potential in the future. Furthermore as I noted in yesterday’s piece she could have gone full “I told you so” and used this as a platform to destroy the progressive left who put her in this spot.

Instead she was amazingly the adult in the room. She is taking the hits from the Nolte’s because she knows that she can absorb those hits while others in the party, who deserve them considerably more, can not.

That’s old fashioned leadership reminiscent of an earlier era, granted leadership in a bad cause but leadership nonetheless.