Ethics- it’s the moral compass that guides our decisions and behavior. And when people seek public office, they should be held to an extremely high ethical standard. I believe most people enter politics for the right reasons; they want to help make their schools and communities safer, and they want to make decisions that improve circumstances for the people and families they serve. I work alongside many individuals in the General Assembly who conduct themselves with the highest levels of integrity. They hold themselves to a high standard of conduct. I enjoy working with these men and women on legislative initiatives that move Illinois in a positive direction. But unfortunately, there are also some bad eggs who reject proper ethics and put their own interests above those of everyone else. These folks, over time, have created a culture of corruption in Illinois that has caused many to lose faith in their government.
Too often here in Illinois, honesty and ethics take a back seat to corruption and abuse of the public trust. We’ve seen so many governors and elected officials sent to prison that people have become desensitized to it. Last year a study ranked Chicago as the most corrupt city in the country, and Illinois as the third most corrupt state. It’s startling data that should worry every Illinoisan, yet the story was glossed over or ignored by most news outlets. Rather than responding with shock and outrage, people just considered the news “business as usual” here in the Land of Lincoln.
Earlier this year, just weeks after the FBI raided the Chicago offices of City Councilman Ed Burke, voters re-elected him to the Chicago City Council. Evidently, the filing of federal attempted extortion charges did not sway public opinion. I guess corruption is expected and accepted in the City of Chicago. Corruption is not limited to our largest city. We have a habit here in Illinois of electing Governors who end up in prison. Since the 1960s, Governors Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich all went to prison for a variety of offenses, from corruption, bribery and bank fraud, to racketeering and trying to sell a vacant Senate seat. No other state has sent more governors to prison than Illinois.
We need good, clean government and we haven’t had it in decades. Citizens need to think hard about the individuals they vote for, and elect people with the political will and courage to make fundamental change to broken systems. Only then will Illinois cease being the punchline of bad political jokes.