Needed: A new culture of ethics, honesty and adherence to the law

In the last decade alone, ten sitting or former elected state officials have been charged in federal court with public corruption-related activities. This includes longtime Speaker of the House Michael Madigan who is awaiting trial on charges of racketeering, bribery, fraud and extortion.

Was it hubris or outright defiance of the law that played a role in the corrupt actions of these political leaders? Perhaps they just didn’t fear the consequences? What is not in question is the current Democratic leadership’s lack of will to take up ethics reform any time soon. 

That needs to change. While some politicians argue the laws currently on the books are enough to protect Illinois from corrupt politicians, it is obvious to just about everyone else, they are not.

We need to do much more.

Illinois has the distinction of being one of the most corrupt states in the nation. We need to take bold steps to change that moniker. First, those who breach the public trust need to pay dearly with the harshest of penalties. Second, members of the General Assembly should be banned from lobbying while they are in office. Third, the state should create a strong independent watchdog with subpoena powers to aid in their investigation. Finally, lawmakers should be prohibited from using campaign funds to pay legal fees.

We must replace Illinois’ culture of corruption with a different standard. We need to cultivate a new culture where elected leaders are strongly committed to ethics, honesty and adherence to the law.