Spotlight Politics: A Corruption Check-In


Video: Our politics team of Carol Marin, Paris Schutz and Amanda Vinicky talks corruption in this week’s Spotlight Politics.


It may be a new year, but politicians in Illinois and Chicago haven’t turned the page on corruption. Just weeks into 2020, fresh headlines are shining light on politicians behaving unethically.

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Chicago Ald. Ed Burke will have to pay a $2,000 fine. The Daily Line first reported that the city’s ethics board imposed the fine after finding Burke wrote another city official a letter on behalf of a client represented by his law firm.

Burke’s also paying a hefty legal tab as he fights federal counts of racketeering and bribery. A campaign finance report shows he spent nearly a half million dollars – more than $414,000 – on legal fees in the last quarter of 2019. His attorneys shouldn’t worry that he’ll run out of money, though. He’s still got about $8 million in his campaign accounts.

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday celebrated a year since he took the oath of office. His team touts 5 1/2 pages of achievements (those are single-spaced pages), ranging from building a diverse cabinet to increasing how much money the state sends to schools.

But ethical issues continue to weigh down the capitol, and pressure is on Pritkzer to take a more forceful stand against House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Michael Madigan, particularly since WBEZ uncovered an email from 2012 written by Madigan’s longtime confidant, now retired lobbyist Mike McClain. In it, McClain praises a state employee for allegedly covering up “ghost workers” in former Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, as well as an unspecified “rape in Champaign.”

Pritzker this week asked his agriculture secretary, former state Sen. John Sullivan, to resign after learning that Sullivan has been “contemporaneously” aware of the email and did not forward it to authorities; Sullivan has said he was disgusted by the email but didn’t read it at the time as he was busy getting treatment for cancer in Baltimore and running for reelection.

Madigan in a statement said he was unaware of the email or the incidents detailed in it.

It’s under this cloud that state senators will choose a new leader on Sunday, following Senate President John Cullerton’s midterm retirement.

Senators will meet at the capitol on Sunday. The main contenders are longtime Sens. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood and Don Harmon, D-Oak Park.  One – or a new candidate – will have to clinch 30 votes from Democrats to win the position.

Our politics team of Carol Marin, Paris Schutz and Amanda Vinicky has that and more in this week’s Spotlight Politics.

Follow us on Twitter: @wttw | @paschutz@AmandaVinicky @CarolMarin


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