When former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was snared in a racketeering and fraud investigation, some thought Chicago might get a break from the corruption that has plagued the city for as long as anyone can remember. The new governor, Rod Blagojevich, was promising a swift end to the boodling and graft. The Associated Press reports that last week’s conviction of political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a top Blagojevich aide who poured $1.6 million into his campaign, made it appear little has changed.
Witnesses said Blagojevich discussed a job for a campaign donor with a $25,000 contribution lying on the table and dangled state contracts to entice a fundraiser. Blagojevich has denied wrongdoing. Federal prosecutors are delving into the governor’s hiring practices and campaign funds. “If morals don’t get to them, I hope the fear of going to jail does,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said after the Rezko verdict. Chicago’s tradition of corruption goes back to the 1890s when the so-called Gray Wolves of the City Council stuffed their pockets with bribes. One alderman was known as the Prince of the Boodlers.