Monday, March 12, 2007

(Chicago Sun Times- Sunday March 11, 2007: James Merriner)

Compared to our neighbors, we're No. 1

Minneapolis, Minnesota thinks it can teach Illinois something about political corruption. No, really, Minnesota, by reputation the home of squeaky clean goverment. You might remember that in '98 Minnesota elected Gov. Jesse Ventura, the Reform Party candidate and former pro wrestler. Witty Minnesotans soon sported bumper stickers- "My governor can beat up your governor." Some Illinoisans had enough pride to respond, "My governor is a bigger crook than your governor," said a National Taxpayer Union of Illinois bumper sticker in 2000. That's the spirit, We're No. !!!

The Center for Ethical Business Cultures recently sponsored a conference, "Exploring Public Corruption- Its Causes, Consequences and Remedies, at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. One of the panelists, Joseph Friedberg, a criminal defense lawyer, wondered why they even bothered. "The bribes that are talked about (here) would be considered insults in Chicago rather than bribes." "If I specialized in defending cases of public corruption, I would starve to death."

Illinois, where few lawyers specializing in such cases starve, once staged a similar forum. Professors, attorneys and reformers discussed how crooked the government is and how we might cleanse it. The University of Illinois at Springfield sponsored,"Politics and Ethics in Illinois- Past, Present and Future" in April 2003. Have you noticed our politics getting any cleaner since then?

"The unholy trinity of states are New Jersey, Louisiana, and Illinois," says professor at University of Virginia- Larry Sabato.

The former deputy chief of staff for George Ryan; Richard Juliano spoke at the Minneapolis ethics conference. He said that Ryan's operatives were "conditioned" to "considered all of these (corrupt acts) to be minimal long as the media didn't find out about it, in which case we would have a political problem, it would be OK....the goal was to win the election. As long as we win the election, everything else will take care of itself."

To quote Sabato once more on the culture of corruption: it "depends heavily on what average voters will tolerate from their elected officials." The feds are vigorously investigating the administrations of Gov. Blagojevich and Mayor Daley. We just elected them by landslide margins.

The 10 most corrupt states in order of most corrupt are: North Dakota (1), Louisiana (2), Mississippi (3), Alaska (4), Montana (5), Kentucky (6), South Dakota (7), Ohio (8), Illinois (9), Florida (10).

The 10 least corrupt states in order of least corrupt are: Oregon (1), Nebraska (2), Iowa (3), New Hampshire (4), Minnesota (5), New Mexico (6), Utah (7), Kansas (8), Colorado (9), Washington (10).

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