It would be far easier for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to solve this state’s financial problems, something that’s virtually impossible, than its corruption problems.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is continuing his war against corruption in government with more super-heated rhetoric denouncing those public officials who are looking out for No. 1 rather than their constituents.
“I am furious watching public officials — some from our own party — betray the public trust. I am disgusted that some people in politics seem to think that the old way of doing politics is the right way of doing politics,” Pritzker told Cook County Democrats this week at a party fund-raiser.
He vowed to lead a campaign against official wrongdoing, first by proposing more stringent rules for lobbyists when the General Assembly meets for three days next week as part of its fall veto session. Next year, Pritzker promised, he’ll propose further unidentified measures to help restore public faith in state government.
The governor was really putting the hay down where the goats could get it. But the governor’s words didn’t appear to have much impact, according to news reports.
“Pritzker’s remarks were ignored by many attendees who chatted to themselves throughout his address in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago in the South Loop,” The Chicago Tribune reported.
One can only speculate as to why Pritzker’s audience of Chicago political people were under-whelmed. Perhaps they’ve heard it all before. Perhaps they realize that where there’s a will to be corrupt, there’s a way to be corrupt. Perhaps they’re so in-bred with the notion of business as usual that they feel that a politician who feeds at the public trough is just doing it the way it’s done in Chicago and all of Illinois.
Former state Rep. Louis Arroyo, who resigned from the Illinois House after he was charged with trying to bribe a member of the Illinois Senate, appears to represent that third perspective.
In a stunning lack of self-awareness, Arroyo recently posted on his Facebook page a picture of one person stabbing another person in the back.
It was accompanied by a statement that read, “The most dangerous creature on this Earth is .... a fake friend.”
So who was Arroyo’s fake friend who betrayed him? Is it state Sen. Terry Link, the Waukegan Democrat who allegedly worked with the feds on the Arroyo bribery charge? Is it Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Arroyo’s former House colleague, who vowed a campaign to expel Arroyo if Arroyo did not resign following the bribery charges? Is it all of Arroyo’s former Democratic colleagues who promised to throw Arroyo out of the House as a means of proving their bona fides on the corruption issue to their constituents?
Arroyo obviously forgot the late President Harry Truman’s admonition — if you’re involved in politics and you want a friend, get a dog.
Arroyo’s clearly expressed attitude suggests that he thinks it’s a breach of political etiquette for his former associates — his friends, as it were — to have wrongfully separated themselves from him merely because of him being charged in a corruption case.
In other words, he effectively and plaintively states, what did I do? Obviously, nothing that he doesn’t see as part and parcel of the political game.
Arroyo, of course, has yet to be convicted, and he remains innocent in the eyes of the law until he is. But those who read the transcripts of the FBI’s recorded conversation between Arroyo and the member of the Illinois Senate tentatively identified as Link could see what was happening.
It was business as usual in Cook County and Illinois government — you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
That’s what Pritzker will be facing when and if he seriously tries to make change in this state’s deeply embedded, all-pervasive culture of corruption.
That’s not to say he should not do his best to try. It’s just that he needs to remain aware of just how resistant to change the corrupt status quo is.