By now, everyone knows what Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said in his State of the State address. We know what has been said by House and Senate Republicans. We know what has been said by House and Senate Democrats. Even with all of this information for the voters of Illinois to comprehend and understand, what’s missing here?
Illinois enters its bicentennial year reflecting on what was born, built and grown in Illinois:
- Illinois was the first to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which effectively ended slavery.
- Four U.S. presidents called Illinois home at one point in time – Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.
- It is home of the creation of the Twinkie and the first nuclear chain reaction.
- People who did their best work in Illinois include poet Gwendolyn Brooks (who kept record of the state’s most personal struggles), Nobel Laureate Robert Millikan (research involving electrons in orbit), Benny Goodman (who started the big band movement in Chicago), Walt Disney (who created Mickey — and Minnie — Mouse while in the state), Jane Addams (social work which would be the object of future books) and John Deere (inventor of the steel plow) among others.
- Illinois is home to 36 companies listed in the Fortune 500, 1.2 million small businesses and 72,000 of the greatest farms comprised of millions of acres.
Okay, so some (if not all) of those things are good. Those are things worth of praise and to be proud of. So what exactly is missing here?
#1: A Culture of Corruption
It’s hard not to find a state that is steeped in corruption, but none of them come closer to states like Illinois. Ten Chicago city aldermen, seven municipal officials or workers, five state officials, five former governor and seven Congressmen have all be censured, charged, impeached, forced to resign or imprisoned for some form of corruption against the taxpaying public — and both Democrats and Republicans are involved.
The most notable ones in this modern political era are former U.S. representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., former U.S. representative Aaron Schock, four of the past several governors – Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, former Auditor General Frank Mautino, and Rita Crundwell, former comptroller and treasurer of the City of Dixon.
Jackson, a Democrat who represented the state’s second Congressional district beginning in 1995, violated campaign finance laws by using campaign funds for personal purchases, resulting in his 2012 resignation. He was convicted of one count of wire fraud and mail fraud and served 30 months in prison.
Schock, a Republican who represented the state’s 18th Congressional district beginning in 2009, spent outrageous amounts on money of vacations and renovations of his district offices. After being taking to task on the issue in 2015, he resigned. Schock was indicted of 24 criminal counts of theft of government funds (theft from the American people is more appropriate), fraud, making false statements and filing false tax returns in 2016. No updates as to how long he could be in prison.
Four of our past governors in the past half century have gone to prison for corruption, in their own ways:
- Democrat Otto Kerner, Jr., the 33rd governor of Illinois, was convicted of 17 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy, perjury and additional charges by prosecutor and future governor James R. Thompson. A Federal judge at the time who was likely going to be impeached, Kerner resigned from the post in July 1974. Kerner was governor from 1961 until 1969.
- Democrat Dan Walker, the 36th governor of Illinois, after a one-term stint as governor from 1973 until 1977, was convicted of bank fraud and perjury involving receiving improper loans from a bank he acquired, the First American Savings and Loan Association, which would be declared insolvent in 1987 as part of the savings and loan crisis. Sentenced to seven years in prison, Walker was released on good behavior after 18 months.
- Republican George Ryan, the 39th governor of Illinois, was convicted of fraud and racketeering charges in 2006 for offenses committed during his two terms as secretary of state from 1991 until 1999 and as governor from 1999 until 2003. Ryan served a prison sentence of six and a half years in Federal prison before being released to house arrest
- Ryan’s successor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, the 40th governor of Illinois, was convicted in 2010 on 18 counts of corruption, including attempting to sell or trade an appointment to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate created by Barack Obama, who was elected President of the United States. One of those potential choices for an appointment is current Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker, as revealed from a declassified FBI recording of Blagojevich’s wiretapped calls by incumbent Republican governor Bruce Rauner. Blagojevich is still in the middle of a 14-year prison sentence and is the only governor to be impeached and successfully removed by the Illinois General Assembly.
Frank Mautino was the former Auditor General under former Democrat governor Pat Quinn. With revelations about his failure to disclose information regarding an investigation on a former legislative campaign’s expenses, Mautino was fined $5,000.
Rita Crundwell was the City of Dixon’s comptroller and treasurer. After an investigation that resulted in $54 million that had been embezzled over many years, Crundwell, a Republican, was arrested for fraud in 2012 and was convicted of wire fraud, serving nearly two decades in prison. The story of this example of corruption, an embezzlement of millions of dollars spent on a horse farm, was the focus of Kelly Richmond Pope’s 2017 documentary All the Queen’s Horses.
Let’s not forget the unforgettable dishonorable mention of the most corrupt man in Illinois politics: House Speaker Michael Madigan, who first started in 1978 and is entering his fourth decade in office and his seeking his twenty-first term in 2018.
#2 House Democrats are Creating a False Narrative RE: Amazon HQ2
In the House Democratic Caucus’ rebuttal to the State of the State address, deputy majority leader Rep. Lou Lang said that Rauner attacked the City of Chicago after Amazon chose the city among 20 finalists for their second corporate headquarters. However, there is no such documentation after digging through two months’ worth of news reports, meaning Democrats are creating a false narrative on the issue, just to have something to do in order to waste more taxpayer money.
#3 Will #MeToo and #UsToo ACTUALLY Change the Hostile Political Environment RE: Sexual Misconduct?
Last fall, when the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct and violence rampaged the country and the State of Illinois was not immune to this. Before you knew it, Hollywood actors, producers, director and studio heads are out of a job, major figures in journalism and broadcasting suspended and/or fired, and even political figures facing censure, lawsuits and resignation.
Former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) was among many political casualties as a result of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. In Illinois, an ongoing investigation surrounding Democratic state senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) following a complaint by Denise Rotheimer has resulted in an ongoing firefight with Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter, whose recent report blamed Rotheimer for what happened, which resulted in Rotheimer writing an email in frustration to state representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez.
While Rauner is signing an executive order to make the process easier for those who fear retribution for filing a complaint of sexual misconduct against another individual, will it truly be enough to stop sexual misconduct in government?
#4 Rauner Failed to Mention Several Factors on WHY People are Leaving Illinois
While Gov. Rauner fails to mention the impact or as to why people are leaving Illinois for neighboring states, the answer is clear-cut: high taxation.
Taxation is excessively high in the Chicagoland region and it’s beginning to get worse in other parts of Illinois. Macon County, where Decatur is the county seat, has seen the largest exodus of residents in the past five years compared to anywhere else in the state. One of the primary reasons behind the exodus: high property taxes among other excessively high taxes charged within the county.
At different times during 2017, the libertarian/conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute reported that one person was leaving Illinois for other states at the rate of one per 4-5 minutes. The primary reason for their departure: high taxation.
Even with the individual and corporate income tax hikes passed on Independence Day 2017, it only makes matters worse for Illinoisans as greedy politicians on both sides aisle continue to steal from your wallets.
#5 Illinoisans Have A Lack of Trust in State Government, so WHY Change Now?
Rauner mentions that due to the political turmoil that takes place in Springfield, there is a lack of trust in state government. He mentions that we wants people to trust the government again. How can we trust a state government who fails to do what they’re supposed to do over and over again, only for voters to blindly vote them in again?
#6 Is Rauner REALLY Going to Push a Balanced Budget?
I am incredibly skeptical of what’s potentially going to be presented in the next couple weeks. Are there going to be much-overdue spending cuts to coincide with actual revenues? Will there be tax cuts? Will marijuana become legal and taxed? It is hard to tell with a Democratic-majority state legislature whose only motto in Illinois is “tax and overspend thrice over.”
Libertarian Party of Illinois chairman Lex Green said it best: the fiscal problem in Illinois is a bipartisan problem. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the financial quagmire that state has been immersed in since at minimum 2001.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.