Spare the rod and spoil the child

By Jeff Myczek

In nearly every state of Illinois election, candidate after candidate extols the “change” they will bring, how they will “clean house” with state government, and how they will root out “cronyism and corruption.” The barrage of television and radio advertisements from primary candidates this week relating to that theme indicates that this phenomenon is still strong. As even the politicians appear to understand that corruption is a major problem in our state, Illinois voters must ask themselves: why is it that our state government appears to be a constant den of “corruption and cronyism?”

In perhaps one of the lengthiest corruption trials in recent state history, former Gov. George Ryan’s five-month proceedings were brought to a close this week. According to the Daily Herald, the charges brought against the former governor and his friend, Larry Warner, included 22 counts of racketeering, tax and mail fraud, extortion, and making false statements to investigators. The prosecution is arguing that in exchange for money, favors and gifts, Gov. Ryan provided friends and cronies with substantial and lucrative government contracts.

According to the prosecution’s case, Gov. Ryan’s administration was essentially an “open bar” for his friends and cronies, with profitable building leases being given to friends throughout the state and the governor’s political campaign fund, Citizens for Ryan, constituting nothing more than a tab for expensive dinners, vacations, and gifts. Furthermore, the prosecution has brought witnesses forward who attest to the former governor’s substantial wads of cash, which corroborate evidence that Ryan and his friend Larry Warner withdrew and exchanged a combined hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash during his time as both governor and secretary of state.

One of the central parts of the prosecution’s case, however, has less to do with cronyism and political back-scratching than it does with outright abuse of state office. The state is arguing that, while abusing his power as both secretary of state and then governor, Ryan lied to and misled investigators who were looking into his various acts of political malfeasance and dissolved large parts of the office that was probing the charges against him. Ryan’s Chief of Staff, Scott Fawell, advised the former governor in a memo to gut the office that was investigating him, the secretary of state inspector general, in order to hide a political bribes program. In the memo Fawell wrote, “let’s get someone in there who won’t screw our friends, won’t ask about fundraising . and won’t get investigators to free lance as they see fit.”

This cover-up, now infamously known as the “License-for-Bribes” scandal, then allowed an ineligible driver to obtain a license and drive illegally, causing the death of six children in a fatal accident.

Just one look at these charges shows that even if the former governor is somehow not convicted by the grand jury, his office was nonetheless a harem of dishonesty and sleaze and an abuse of state authority. Ryan is not alone, however, as three other former Illinois governors have had charges brought against them since leaving office in the last 40 years. The charges being brought against Gov. Ryan and his friends are truly disgusting, and amount to nothing less than treason to the citizens of this state and a total lack of respect for the people of Illinois who trusted him to uphold and execute the laws of the state with honesty, dignity, and equality to all.

While the final decision in this case lies with the jury, the politicians of this state need to be sent a strong message. Corruption, lies, and cover-up will only get you so far, and in the end there will be consequences – one need only ask the family of those six children killed by an illegal driver who obtained a license in exchange for a political donation. To be sure, if the jury spares Ryan the rod and lets him off, then the spoiled and corrupt politicians of Illinois will keep doing “business as usual.”

Jeff Myczek is a junior in LAS. His column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]