Monday, June 15, 2009

Ex-Governor of Illinois Accuses Democrats of Ties to The Chicago Outfit

The adjourned session of the General Assembly failed abysmally to come to grips with Illinois’ pervasive state of corruption. Leading the failure were two Chicagoans — Mike Madigan, speaker of the House and John Cullerton, president of the Senate. The Chicago bloc fell in line behind them, demonstrating once again the baleful grip that Chicago’s Democratic machine, now 85 years old, has on this state.

It’s time to state the obvious. The primary cause of endemic corruption in Illinois is the Chicago political machine.

The machine began with “Push Cart” Tony, Anton J. Cermak. He and his successor, Edward J. Kelly, welded the Democratic Party’s 50 ward committeemen and 3,000 precinct captains into a tight, powerful and well-disciplined political machine that on election day regularly delivered the votes needed to elect its candidates — the ultimate goal of the Chicago machine, then and now.

Demanding unswerving loyalty, the machine absorbed many thousands of new arrivals — first, the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles and Germans, and then the blacks from the South. With few changes in its disciplined methodology, it has now endured for more than 80 years as the available patronage jobs have grown to exceed 40,000.

From the beginning, self-preservation and a lack of ethical standards have characterized the machine’s method of operations. And the machine MO has always included its cardinal credo — “look the other way.” If thy brother is lining his pockets, it’s none of thine’s business.

The credo of toleration and its accompanying lack of ethical standards was hardened when the machine encountered Al Capone’s criminal organization. Sometimes close, sometimes at arms’ length, the political organization with its “look the other way” credo has ever since tolerated what has been called variously the criminal organization, crime syndicate, the Mob, the Chicago Outfit.

The blindness to crime existed in the 11th Ward organization, home for all the Daleys. The precinct captains of that ward organization worked the same streets as the Outfit’s soldiers.

Yet, Daley constantly denied that organized crime existed in Chicago. Significantly, Richard M. Daley looked the other way as state’s attorney, Cook County’s chief law enforcement officer from 1980 to 1989. Ignored during those years were the criminal activities of the Outfit disclosed recently by the Family Secrets trial.

The machine’s political power has extended over the years far beyond Chicago. The machine has also controlled the state’s Democratic Party organization and the selection of candidates for both county and state office. In the state legislature, the machine has constantly controlled a large bloc.

With wheeling and dealing and masterful power brokering raised to an art form, the machine bloc has enabled Chicago machine politics to control both leaders and the flow of legislation in both houses. To get anything accomplished, downstate legislators must bow to the Chicago leadership.

In recent years, money has replaced patronage as the critical fuel for the machine’s operations. So-called “pay to play” has become endemic. Governmental rewards go to those making large contributions. In practical effect, it’s legalized bribery.

Often, the money flows through lawyers — a business desiring governmental results pays high fees to particular attorneys who, in turn, make campaign contributions to the official having the power to grant the favors.

Today, Mayor Richard M. Daley denies that he heads a political machine. He should read the felony indictments of more than 130 officials in his administration. They spell out an MO that is basically no different from that of old-time bosses Tony Cermak and Edward Kelly. And basically, it’s the same MO spelled out in the 75-page indictment of impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the 18-count indictment of former secretary of state and Gov. George Ryan, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

The columnist Mike Royko once wrote that the City of Chicago’s official motto, “Urbs in Horto” (city in a garden), should be changed to, “Ubi est Mea” (what’s in it for me). That has a strange similarity to Blagojevich’s infamous statement about the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama that he tried to auction off to the highest bidder: “I’ve got this thing and it’s ---- golden and I’m not going to give it away for ---- nothing.”

As the trial lawyers say, I rest my case. The record is clear that it is the Chicago political machine that has brought Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, to its present intolerable state of corruption.

Thanks to Dan Walker, Governor of Illinois from 1973-77.

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