Down here in Texas we often make jokes about the day to day tolerance of political corruption in Louisiana. Up in New England they joke about the inbred machine politics of Rhode Island. In the mid-Atlantic states they poke fun at West Virginia's backwoods, populist good-old-boy system. Out on the west coast they point the naughty finger at Nevada. But today we all stand in awe of the magnificent pinnacle of unassailable perfection in the art of political corruption which is the state of Illinois.
With the state's last governor still serving his six and a half year sentence for bribery, kickbacks, extortion, fraud, and money laundering, you would think that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich might think twice about getting involved in any kind of political scandal. Yet it's almost as if he took former governor George Ryan's remarkably corrupt term as a challenge to see if he could commit even more crimes in the same time period before getting dragged away in handcuffs. What's more, Blagojevich knew from early in his administration that relentless Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was investigating him, and that even more eyes were on him with the impending institution of Illinois' strict new ethics law. Yet it apparently never occurred to him that someone might be listening when he started soliciting bribes, trying to extort money from charities and opening what amounted to a private auction to sell the Senate seat vacated by president-elect Obama to the highest bidder.
Illinois does have a history of producing some great and honorable politicians, including the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, who preferred being right to being president, progressive era icon John Altgeld, and Adlai Stevenson, the indefatigable champion of liberalism. But the state does have a history of political corruption centered around the Daley machine in Chicago, founded by notorious and ruthless Mayor Richard J. Daley and continued by his sons, including current Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and influential Democratic power broker William Daley who is on the Obama transition team.