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Are Illinois politicians beyond redemption?

Political scandals are not exclusive to any one state – but Illinois seems to have perfected it. In fact, if you type “Illinois gov” into Google and the search engine auto-completes with “illinois gov jail.” And for good reason – four of the state’s past seven governors have been sent to the big house, culminating in Governor Rod Blagojevich’s high-profile attempt to sell a departing Senator Obama’s Senate seat.

But, you don’t have to hold the top job in order to get in on the corruption. Meet Mike Jones, the Illinois lottery commissioner. Like many bureaucrats, Michael Jones’ dream was apparently to work for the government, make high-level contacts and then cash out in the private sector. He succeeded on two of the three goals.

Unfortunately, his attempt to leave the Illinois state lottery and cash in on it going private did not work. So, he did what any unambitious entrepreneur would – he returned to government work.

As the local Chicago Fox affiliate uncovered, Jones’ plan meant steering contracts to his former firm, Independent Lottery Research. Governor Quinn, a Democrat, squashed those contracts – saying that even if nothing improper occurred, the appearance of impropriety was enough to go with someone else. What a breath of fresh air for Illinois.

However, Independent Lottery Research mysteriously and suddenly became Independent Gaming Research and, at Jones’ urging, received a contract that netted it $168,000 in a one-year period. Here’s the Fox report:

According to Fox 32, Mr. Jones also urged Texas to hire ILR, but his influence did not extend that far. Fox “also obtained emails from Jones to the head of the Texas Lottery, asking that his old company get a chance to bid on a contract. Jones says he was just trying to drum up business for an Illinois company.”

The local Fox station helped shed light that actually caused Illinois lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – to call for an investigation. Bob Rita, a Democrat from outside Chicago and advocate of state gaming, was the first to call for an investigation.

We’ll have to watch to see how this one plays out before seeing whether there is hope for Illinois or its politicians – but the forecast does not look good.

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