Corruption Journey Down Memory Lane

With the current accusations against the Ill.  Governor roaring off the front pages and the glare of the TV it would be good to reflect on those political corruption charges both fair and unfair that have dotted the historical landscape.    Chicago has  famous or infamous  for its corrupt politics for decades.   Al Capone was able to survive as long as he  did because he paid off the politicians in the Chicago area.   The Untouchables and Ellitot Ness were brought in because they were believed to be beyond that influence and the local political machine and law enforcement was not trusted.   You can read some histories of that era and get a flavor of the depth of that evil that prevailed.    Since then things haven’t really improved.   I wrote a while back about the controversy of the 1960 Presidential election between Kennedy and Nixon.   It was very close, as close as the 2000 election.   It was a last minute bundle of votes (after midnight) from Chicago that tipped the vote in favor of Kennedy on election night and thus the state of Illinois went his way and he won the election.  Nixon was advised by many to challenge the vote in court and take the fight all the way because the fraud was so blatant.   Nixon refused because he said the country couldn’t stand the turmoil of uncertainty surrounding the Presidency especially with the high tensions then existing due to the Cold War with the Soviets.

If you have read your Gibbon or other histories of Rome you will find numerous examples of the office of Caesar being bought with outright payments to influential senators and/or to the portions of the roman army stationed in and around Rome.   It was both covert and overt at the same time.  Everyone knew what was occuring but no one would acknowledge that the position of Emperor was for sale.   As with us sometimes the Caesar turned out to be not too bad as a ruler even if he did buy the office and many times he was a disaster, see, Caligula.   Of course in ancient Rome before the days of dna and CSI they often suspected poisoning lead to the succession of a new Caesar and indeed that apparently occurred on more than one occasion.   

If you have studied your Church history then you know that several Popes indulged in bribery and corruption, sometimes on a large scale.   The Popes in olden days exercised as much political power as they did religious influence and that always makes for a bad combination.    Mixing religion and politics excerbates the lure of corruption.    As often as not the Popes were not after money as much as they were after political power over appointments to the Church offices and  political influence in Europe.   The Papal States existed into the late 19th century.   Henry the VIII had a pretty well known controversy with the Pope as did Martin Luther.   Luther was a classical “reformer” who sought to eliminate the more egregious corrupt practices that had infected the Church of that era.

In Texas in the ’70’s there was a scandal called “Sharpstown”.  It got the name from a bank.  It involved a number of prominent politicans and bankers.   There was lots of fallout with some resignations and several convictions for fraudulent activity.   But like so many  of these cases you need some discernment about evaluating the evidence and making sure the scandal  hasn’t turned into a wich hunt propelled by the media.  The media loves, just adores, a juicy scandal and once they smell the scent of blood in the water are rabid to make mountains  out of molehills for anyone  within the circle of allegations.   The Attorney General of the State was one of those indicted.  It ruined him of course politically and financially.  He was not of my party and I had no love for the guy at all.  But I admired his gumption and courage to defend himself which he did.  He was his own defense lawyer for his trial.  Several of the other accused had already either pleaded guilty or been found guilty and some of them testified against him at his trial.   But a funny thing happened to the Government’s case when it reached the jury.   They acquitted the Attorney General.   He never recovered from the episode but at least he walked away with his reputation somewhat restored.  As I say I didn’t even like the guy but he is a good illustration about the need to be  cautious judging these white collar crime cases.  They are more PR and politics sometimes than they are a search for justice. 

I personally think the Governor of Ill. is guilty as sin.   But the evidence needs to be there regardless of my belief.  I think almost every single politician elected within a 50 mile radius of Chicago is tainted.  You can’t swim in that water without getting some of the algae of corruption on you.   Be interesting to see how often the Gov. and the guy heading to the White House rubbed elbows in the years past.

Caution is necessary in these matters.  Churchill did some things that our modern press would pillory him for.   He was a lobbyist for special interest groups on a couple of occasions and was asked to present their position to those in influence and he did.  Once when he was particularly hard up due to his constant debt problems a supporter came along and bailed him out.  Churchill had even put his beloved Chartwell on the market (that was his private residence outside London).   The supporter took care of his debts and guaranteed some of them.   He never asked for anything in return and nothing was given to him by Churchill.   He admired Churchill and his positions.   Today if something like that got out it would be on the front pages for weeks and there would be all kinds of investigations and reports and likely would be the ruin of any political  career.  Churchill turned out to be the lion  of the 20th century. 

So as you read the papers and watch your tv I merely advise that you use your own intelligence in accessing guilt or innocence.   Be  discerning.   I hope these charges are true and that it causes unmitigated hell for the Illinois political machine for the good of that State and the rest of the nation since their votes sometimes affect the rest of us.

Get out and get the Christmas shopping started if you haven’t already.  It won’t be any easier a few days from now.   If you allow yourself you can get into the spirit of the thing and think about the people you love.  It is them after all that matters not the gifts.   I hate shopping but I love my family so the shopping is just a small way of giving them a symbolic hug.   Hey, guys you have to gloss this up somehow.   It is not as bad as when she says “we should talk”,,,,now that is something to be dreaded.

1 Comment

Filed under government, history, Politics

One response to “Corruption Journey Down Memory Lane

  1. imarxists

    Don’t forget the Haymarket affair. The biggest ‘genuine’ political scandal in Chicago’s history: seven men fitted up for a crime because of their political persuasions and as a measure to halt the growth of citizen politics.
    A lot of current stuff is tittle-tattle or a result of the public taking its eyes off politics and politicians until it’s too late. In a system of representative government, open in principle, yet closed in fact, to assume corruption won’t occur is naïve.

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