Is government in Illinois on the up and up?
That, of course, is a ridiculous question. Of course it isn’t.
Given all the federal criminal investigations swirling in and around Chicago and Springfield, it’s clear the Land of Lincoln is a political cesspool.
But it’s not just the outright corruption that is disturbing, it’s the day-to-day tolerance of questionable business as usual — the politics that is shot through decision-making at various levels of government.
Here’s a recent example of what the people of Illinois are expected to not just live with, but accept without reservation.
Commonwealth Edison, which provides service to 70 percent of the state’s utility customers, last week acknowledged that it participated in a years-long bribery scheme in which it lavished money on the friends and political associates of House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for favorable treatment by Madigan of legislation favored by ComEd.
One of the many allegations in the government’s statement of facts referred to Madigan, through cutouts, soliciting a $5,000 monthly salary for one of his friends in exchange for little or no work.
That friend — characterized as Associate 3 in court filings — was subsequently identified as former Chicago Alderman Michael R. Zalewski.
It just so happens that Zalewski is the father-in-law of Carrie Zalewski, chairwoman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities.
If that’s not enough, Carrie Zalewski was among those whose names were on the “clout list” Madigan presented to incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to hire.
Madigan, the alleged ringleader of the ComEd bribery scheme, recommended Carrie Zalewski. Her father-in-law is an alleged beneficiary of the bribery scheme. She leads the commission that regulates ComEd.
Well, isn’t that cozy?
Administration spokeswomen rushed to defend Carrie Zalewski, adopting a what’s-the-problem tone.
“What happened ... does not involve Carrie Zalewski,” a spokeswoman for her agency said.
Actually, it does involve her. How could it not? At a minimum, circumstances look terrible. Luckily for Carrie Zalewski, this is Illinois, a venue where corruption thrives and appearances, however suspicious, are not a problem.