Latest high-profile public corruption trial hits Illinois amidst Democrats’ inaction on ethics reform

The trial for allegedly corrupt businessman Jimmy Weiss began this week in Chicago, and it is yet another example of the rampant corrupt pay-to-play politics that has existed in state government circles in Illinois for decades. Weiss, who is married to former Democratic state Rep. Toni Berrios, stands accused of bribing two Democratic lawmakers in an effort to boost his electronic sweepstakes business.

The trial is expected to feature testimony from one of the two ex-legislators Weiss is alleged to have bribed, former Democratic State Senator Terry Link, who happened to be cooperating with the government and wearing a wire when then-Democratic state representative Luis Arroyo offered him a bribe in an attempt to further the cause of legalizing sweepstakes machines. Arroyo pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2021.

The Weiss trial comes on the heels of the recent ‘ComEd Four’ verdict tied to former Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan. That was also a high-profile bribery case, with four Com-Ed employees found guilty on a total of 30 corruption charges. House Republicans have consistently advocated for sweeping corruption and ethics reform, as our state’s reputation for public corruption is, sadly, well-earned.

There is no more transformational change that can be made to state government in Illinois than enacting stronger ethics reforms and returning mapmaking to the people. Despite numerous Illinois legislators being indicted or imprisoned on corruption charges since 2019, Illinois lags behind other states in enacting meaningful reforms. Among the reforms that would create a more honest and transparent government include eliminating conflicts of interest and empowering the Legislative Inspector General with subpoena powers.

Ethics reform should be open and transparent, and it should be a bipartisan issue. House Republicans believe legislators should not be lobbyists, and they also believe in public service over self-interest. The time for pay-to-play politics must end.

“We have numerous bills to address ethics reforms, but Democrats will never act until the courts or the public force their hands,” stated Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City). “They have shown themselves totally unwilling to clean up the mess they have created.”