Promises, promises are about appearances, appearances.
Last week was another eye-opener in Illinois’ long-standing culture of corruption.
It featured a former legislator pleading guilty in Chicago federal court while current legislators were trying to deal with misconduct by their colleagues.
Former Chicago state Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud in connection with his effort to bribe a fellow legislator to sponsor gambling legislation in the General Assembly.
The target of the bribery attempt has been identified as former state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan. Link was wearing a wire and working with federal agents, but not for altruistic reasons.
Implicated in a federal income-tax evasion scam, Link was working with the feds in order to win favorable treatment when he’s sentenced on the tax charge.
So to sum it up, Arroyo, acting as a lobbyist, was bribing Link to push legislation backed by one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
One might wonder why legislators are allowed to work as lobbyists while they hold public office.The answer is that Illinois has its own way of doing things, and it’s not related to enhancing the public interest.
While federal prosecutors were working out the details of Arroyo’s guilty plea and the larger conspiracy that envelops it, other legislators were going back and forth about their ongoing effort to hire a new state legislative inspector general.
Current Inspector General Carol Pope, a former state appellate judge, resigned her post last summer because it, by design, has insufficient power and independence to investigate and reveal legislative misconduct.
The Legislative Ethics Commission is conducting a search for Pope’s successor and apparently has three finalists under consideration.
But there have been delays in the process, prompting commission Chairwoman Jill Tracy to complain that if a hiring decision is not made soon, the General Assembly will meet in January without one in place.
“Allowing this position to go unfilled is a major disservice to the people of Illinois who deserve an accountable and transparent government,” said Tracy, R-Quincy.
The people of Illinois certainly deserve, as Tracy said, an “accountable and transparent government.”
Bu they won’t get one no matter what decisions are made regarding hiring a new legislative inspector general.
Because of the rules overseeing the inspector general’s duties, the watchdog is both toothless and somnambulant.
After Pope’s resignation announcement earlier this year, some legislators proposed changes in ethic rules and an upgrade in the legislative inspector general’s authority.
In the end, legislators passed a bill designed to convince the public that positive changes were made. Those purported positive changes — including new lobbying restrictions — were mostly illusory. It’s still, for the most part, the same old, same old.
So the business with the inspector general is mostly about appearance, not substance, as demonstrated by recent history.
When former Legislative Inspector General Tom Homer resigned in 2014, legislative leaders left his post vacant for three years.
That became a major embarrassment when a now-infamous sex scandal became public and it was revealed that there were multiple complaints pending in the IG’s office with no IG there to investigate them.
That’s why, one way or another, the post will be filled. Perhaps with a new inspector general or perhaps, as state Rep. Kelly Burke said, with an interim inspector general. Unfortunately, whatever transpires won’t matter, because whoever fills the post won’t have any more authority than the one in place now.