Illinois Named America’s Most Corrupt City, Again

Illinois has a long and notorious history of public corruption, dating back to its early days as a state. From vote buying to kickbacks, from ghost payrolls to rigged contracts, from bribery to extortion, Illinois has seen it all. And it seems that nothing has changed, as Illinois remains the most corrupt state in the nation, according to a recent study by the University of Illinois Chicago.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The study, published in 2022, ranked Illinois as the second most corrupt state in the nation, behind only Washington D.C. The study used federal data on public corruption convictions from 1976 to 2012, and found that Illinois had 2,102 convictions, or 16.4 per 100,000 population. New York and California had more convictions in absolute terms, but lower rates per capita. The study also found that Chicago was the most corrupt city in the nation, with 1,642 convictions, or 30.5 per 100,000 population. The next closest city was Los Angeles, with 1,275 convictions, or 12.9 per 100,000 population

But the numbers don’t stop there. According to another report by the ABC7 I-Team, there have been 891 convictions for public corruption in Illinois since the year 2000, the most in the country The Illinois Policy Institute, a think tank that advocates for good government reforms, has compiled a list of individuals and organizations that have been questioned, targeted, investigated, arrested, indicted or convicted as part of law enforcement’s anti-corruption activity in Illinois from 2019 to 2020. The list includes powerful state lawmakers, Chicago aldermen, local mayors, business interests, and even former governors

The Cost of Corruption

Corruption is not only a moral and legal issue, but also an economic one. Corruption erodes public trust, undermines democracy, and wastes taxpayer money. Corruption also discourages investment, innovation, and competition, and hampers economic growth and development. According to a 2012 study by the University of Illinois Chicago, corruption costs the state economy more than $550 million per year. This is money that could have been spent on education, health care, infrastructure, or other public services.

Corruption also affects the quality of life of Illinois residents. Corruption leads to poor public policies, inefficient public services, and unfair distribution of resources. Corruption also creates a culture of cynicism, apathy, and resignation among the citizens, who feel powerless and disillusioned by their government. Corruption also breeds more corruption, as people resort to illegal or unethical means to get ahead or survive in a corrupt system.

The Need for Reform

It is clear that Illinois needs to take serious and urgent steps to combat corruption and restore integrity and accountability in its government. There are many possible reforms that could help achieve this goal, such as:

  • Adopting revolving door restrictions on state lawmakers becoming lobbyists.
  • Empowering the Illinois legislative inspector general to investigate lawmaker corruption without needing approval from a panel of state lawmakers.
  • Mandating state lawmakers recuse themselves from votes in which they have a conflict of interest.
  • Reforming the Illinois House rules, which grant more concentrated power to the House speaker than any other legislative rules in the country.
  • Using objective scoring criteria for capital projects, to ensure infrastructure dollars are directed by need rather than clout.
  • Passing a bipartisan constitutional amendment to end politically drawn legislative maps in Illinois

These are just some of the possible reforms that could make a difference in Illinois. But reforms alone are not enough. There also needs to be a change in the culture and mindset of the people, both in and out of government. There needs to be a demand for honesty, transparency, and responsibility from the public officials, and a willingness to hold them accountable for their actions. There also needs to be a sense of civic duty, participation, and engagement from the citizens, and a rejection of corruption as a way of life. Only then can Illinois hope to overcome its corrupt past and present, and move towards a better and brighter future.

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