Illinois state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City)
Illinois state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) concedes that bringing ethics reform to Springfield is an uphill battle, and will remain so until some other changes can occur.
“The corruption is ongoing, influence peddling happens at the highest level, to the point it’s now become an epidemic,” Wilhour told the South Central Reporter. “It’s what happens when one party gets to be so big that it’s unaccountable. Folks in the majority party are not interested enough in reforms. There’s no sense of urgency.”
Wilhour points to a recent Harvard University Center for Ethics survey as justification for his position. Researchers found that Illinois now ranks as the second most corrupt state in the nation, and Chicago rates as the country’s most corrupt city.
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago)
The corruption has come at a high cost for the state, with Illinois Policy Institute also concluding that since the year 2000 Illinois has lost out on at least $9.9 billion in economic activity stemming from dysfunction in state government.
“This influence peddling is what stops big things like property tax reform and pension reform from happening in Illinois,” Wilhour said. “Everything is geared toward special interest. The corruption tax in this state is really real.”
In the last 10 months alone, taxpayers have had to endure the spectacle of seeing a veteran state representative arrested on federal bribery charges, the home and offices of a longtime state senator raided in connection with an ongoing kickback scheme, and at least three political insiders with connections to longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) being targeted by federal agents as part of a widening probe.
“The culture is such that nothing gets done in Springfield without greasing the skids,” Wilhour said. “Good ideas get muddled up with all kinds of special interests and everything is transactional. At the end of day, if you’re going to change the culture you need to change the people.”