Rep. Wilhour blames one-party rule for Cullerton affair: 'I think this goes all the way up to the top'
Illinois state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Effingham) has a distinct view of the ghost payroll charges state Sen. Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park) now faces stemming from the $275,000 union wages he allegedly received without so much as having a job description.
“This is about influence-peddling at its finest,” Wilhour told the South Central Reporter. “Politicians in Illinois do things so brazenly they don’t think anything is wrong with it. When I look at reporting in this Cullerton thing, they’re constantly saying he stole from the Teamsters Union. In my mind, the Union took the money from hardworking members and gave it to a politician knowing full well he wouldn’t be able to put in the time.”
Federal prosecutors recently slapped Cullerton with at least 40 charges, including embezzlement, conspiracy and making false statements. His indictment came just 72 hours after former longtime Teamsters boss John Coli Sr. pleaded guilty to federal charges of corruption and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
According to the Chicago Tribune, part of the filing alleges that Cullerton conspired with Coli as recently as four years ago in landing the high-salaried post now at the center of the probe.
“I’m just happy the federal government is coming in to root this out,” Wilhour said. “You didn’t see Lisa Madigan doing this when she was in charge, or Kwame Raoul rooting it out now. This is what you see when you have one party rule for so long. I hope the federal government keeps at it. I think this goes all the way up to the top.”
Through his attorneys, the 49-yer-old Cullerton, a distant cousin of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), has denied all the charges.
According to the indictment, Cullerton had been a member of Teamsters Local Union 734 before assuming his state senate seat in January 2013. The filing further charges he rarely showed up for the job he was given and Coli repeatedly “ignored and failed to act upon repeated complaints” by a supervisor.
“There’s way too much influence buying and it’s a big hindrance to real reform in Springfield,” Wilhour said. “The people of Illinois need to start rising up and pushing back against this stuff.”
Cullerton is the seventh Illinois legislator to be hit with criminal charges over the last seven years.