Chicago remains America’s most corrupt city, and Illinois the third-most corrupt state, according to an annual report from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The report, co-authored by UIC professor and former Ald. Dick Simpson, is based on an analysis of the public corruption statistics published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 2019, there were 26 public corruption convictions in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes all of Chicago and the northern third of Illinois — double the number recorded in 2018, according to the report.
The rest of the state had six additional public corruption convictions in 2019 for a state total of 32, according to Simpson’s findings based on the most recent DOJ data available.
The report, co-authored by Marco Rosaire Rossi and Thomas J. Gradel, uses a formula that compares the number of each area’s corruption convictions with its population to create the ranking system that incorporates data from 1976 to 2019.
However, the report acknowledged that it “does not come close to capturing the significance of that year’s corruption events. They miss both the large number and the importance of the public officials caught up in the year’s political scandal.”
In May 2019, Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) was indicted on 14 counts of racketeering, bribery and extortion based on evidence that he repeatedly — and brazenly — used his powerful position at City Hall to force those doing business with the city to hire his private law firm. Burke has pleaded not guilty.
Because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the voluminous amount of evidence involved in the case, Burke has yet to stand trial.
In addition, the investigation swirling around now-former House Speaker Michael Madigan centering on allegations of political hiring and contracting at Commonwealth Edison burst into public view in October 2019 with the revelation that federal agents raided the offices of the City Club of Chicago. Now-former President Jay Doherty was a ComEd lobbyist.
The highest profile corruption conviction in 2019 resulted from the guilty plea of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) to charges that he accepted bribes in connection with the placement of red-light cameras in suburban municipalities. Sandoval died in December 2020 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Former Ald. Willie Cochran (20th Ward) pleaded guilty in June 2019 to wire fraud in connection with allegations he used a charitable fund for personal expenses. Cochran was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
In addition, John T. Coli, the former secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 727 and former president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, pleaded guilty to accepting $325,000 in bribes from CineScape studios.
Note: This story was originally published Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” discussion, produced by Paul Caine.