Since 2016, the Chicago Corruption Walking Tour has explored and investigated the city’s infamous legacy of political wrongdoing.
During a roughly 2-mile trek through downtown Chicago, participants are regaled with scandalous tales of vote-buying, abuse of public funds, and even a dive bar run by a newspaper.
But like the careers of even the craftiest politicos, the walking tour’s term is coming to an end. This summer will be its last season.
Started by local journalist Paul Dailing, the tour “will tell you where so-and-so accepted a bribe, or a kickback, or stuff like that. I like to show the visual evidence created by this corruption, by these shady politics,” Dailing said.
That includes stops at street corners and a former saloon, but also sites like the federal courthouse and the Daley Center.
The tour ends at Brehon’s Pub, the former site of a tavern called The Mirage – which, in some ways, it was. The bar had been set up in 1977 by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association to catch corrupt officials taking bribes and breaking other laws. Photographers hid in a secret room and photographed city inspectors taking cash to ignore the tavern’s dilapidated conditions, among other misdeeds.
Dailing says during the tour he tries to use stories like this as a jumping-off point to teach people larger civics lessons about how Chicago government works – or doesn’t.
“There are sections telling people what a TIF district is, and how that money is used, or sections talking about gerrymandering,” he said.
And while he’s stopping the tours later this month, Dailing says he hopes the lessons he’s tried to impart live on.
“People need to see these things that they see every day and get angry,” Dailing says. “Because otherwise there’s no change possible. If people just look at a beautiful city and don’t see the ugliness behind it, the ugliness wins.”
More information about the final tours can be found here.