A decent respect for public opinion requires that a state senator who is the target of a corruption investigation be removed from a committee assignment that spawned the alleged misconduct.
Last week’s raids by the FBI on the offices and home of a prominent state senator continue to reverberate throughout Illinois.
The FBI’s execution of search warrants at the home and offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval kicked off the latest round of intense speculation about where law enforcement’s interest in Sandoval fits in the mix of other corruption investigations under way in Chicago and Springfield.
But concerns about criminality and public officials quickly turned to politics, prompting our elected officials to assure the public that Illinois isn’t as corrupt as it obviously is. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle urged voters to think about all the offices of public officials that weren’t hit by raids, not the ones that were.
That unpersuasive admonition is one reason Gov. J.B. Pritzker held a news conference to announce that “corruption and self-dealing will not be tolerated.
“Let me be clear. While Sen. Sandoval is under investigation, it’s in the best interest of the state that he no longer serve as chairman of the Transportation Committee. If he doesn’t step aside, he should be removed,” Pritzker said.
What’s the governor so concerned about? Sandoval was a key player in putting together the $45 billion public works program that is funded, at least in part, by a 100 percent increase in the state’s gas tax. The tax jumped from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon.
With Sandoval under investigation in connection with alleged kickbacks in exchange for government contracts, Pritzker insisted that “we must assure the public that this work (the capital plan) is on the up and up.”
But Pritzker is getting pushback from one of Sandoval’s Democratic colleagues, Senate President John Cullerton.
The Senate’s top man is resisting efforts to remove Sandoval because, according to Cullerton’s spokesman, “this remains an active investigation, and the Senate president wants to make informed decisions.”
Circumstances are not as complicated as Cullerton would have the public believe.
Sandoval is under a cloud related to public works programs for which he allegedly received kickbacks. So why not remove him from a position where he has considerable influence on which public works programs will be done and which ones won’t?
It’s not like Sandoval is being asked to resign from the Senate itself, just from a committee chairmanship.
Didn’t President Cullerton remove his cousin, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, from his position as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee after he was indicted in connection with a no-show job with the Teamsters union?
Why shouldn’t President Cullerton treat Sandoval as he did Sen. Cullerton?
While Pritzker and Cullerton are quibbling over the transportation committee chairmanship, more and more details are spilling out about what the feds are looking for in connection with the Sandoval raids.
Not enough details were released to satisfy WBEZ radio, which filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court to obtain a copy of the un-redacted search warrant.
Cullerton’s office released a redacted version that deleted dozens of names of individuals and companies. News reports, however, indicate FBI agents were seeking information about a variety of individuals and entities, including a highway company, a construction company, “any business owned and controlled by Martin Sandoval,” several municipalities and a political organization. State transportation department employees and lobbyists also are subjects of investigative interest.
For now, this flurry of activity represents, at least to those on the outside, an incomprehensible morass reflective of a political reality — unrelenting corruption at state and local levels of government.
It won’t become clear what’s up for a while, maybe a long while. But in the end, the public will be let in on the deep dark secrets causing Pritzker such heartburn.