Corruption in Political System
- Corruption , Justice , Policy
How it works
469 Illinois politicians convicted for corruption in a span of 9 years between 1995 and 2004 (Corruption in American Politics). It sounds like something out of a movie but it is the reality of the corruption struck state of Illinois. Most people are only aware of the most recently convicted Illinois Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached, convicted, and removed from office in 2009 for 17 corruption charges, one of which was the solicitation of Barack Obama’s senate seat after he won the presidential election (Sudath). It may be hard to believe but Blagojevich was not alone. In fact, the last four of the seven governors in Illinois have been imprisoned for some for some form of corruption (Corruption in American Politics).
Corruption in politics ranges from a variety of multiple different illegal acts some of the most common being bribery, fraud, embezzlement, and theft. Corruption is nothing new, it has been occurred in almost every government worldwide in one form or another. There is no better place to research corruption than the state with the most political corruption in the country. The first recorded corruption incident that occurred in Illinois history was in the 1920’s. Lennington Small was the Illinois governor in the 1920s, during which time he was charged with embezzling over $1 million in state funds. Small was tried in court in 1922 while still serving as governor. Even though there was substantial evidence against him, he was acquitted and went on to serve seven more years in office (Sudath). Many solutions have been proposed to help deter and attempt to stop corruption in politics.
How it works
One of the most recent solutions was in 2008; the establishment of International Corruption Unit which is made up of FBI agents who specialize in investigating corruption (Public Corruption). Millions of people are affected in Illinois by corruption. All taxpayers are affected by this issue because their money will most likely be mismanaged by corrupt officials (Fisher). This issue affects people emotionally because it makes them lose trust in all politicians and faith in our government and its policies/programs. Once people completely distrust their politicians and political process they stop voting to influence public policy. It also drives people away from a career in government, allowing shady politicians to fill in and not provide the changes needed for their government to run honestly and in the best interest of the people. It also convinces people to start moving out of corruption ridden areas, such as what is taking place in Illinois, where they might have lived for years (Redfield).
Illinois is one of the most affected by political corruption out of all the states in America. But, most importantly, Chicago. Chicago is ranked as the most corrupt city in the country according to a study done by the University of Chicago. Dick Simpson who served two terms from 1971-1979 as an Alderman in Chicago claims “Since I served in city council, 35 alderman who I worked with, have been convicted of crimes such as bribery, extortion, fraud, ghost patrolling, conspiracy, and tax evasion (Study Ranks Chicago)”. This is not old news either. Billionaire JB Pritzker who is a 2018 Illinois governor candidate, is accused of not paying state income taxes in 2014 or over 300,000 dollars worth of property taxes on one of his mansions. This shows Illinois is not getting any better when it comes to corruption within its political leadership. There are a few so called experts on this issue who study political science.
Most of which are college professors. Mark J. Farales would be considered an expert on the topic due to his extensive research and studies as a social sciences professor at UCSD. He also wrote a short book about the history of corruption (Forales). The problem has evolved now to being much harder to commit because technology has improved so much. All public records regarding politicians and campaigns are online and open to the public. One part of this issue that has not yet changed or evolved over its existence has been its primary goal of making money out of political positions (Brookes). Political corruption is a problem in today’s society; therefore, lawmakers need to improve upon the practices currently used to have a stronger future.
Corruption is a difficult issue to eliminate from our political system. Many have established and proposed solutions but most still prove to be ineffective or contain loopholes. One reason corruption continues to flow within our political system is because Illinois does not have term limits currently in place for elected officials. When there are no term limits, politicians can try to make a career out of politics. Having career politicians such as Mike Madigan in Illinois is nothing but trouble. Madigan was first elected into the Illinois House of Representatives in 1970 and is still currently the speaker of the house to this day. Madigan has monopolized Illinois and controls the state by funding candidates who will be by his side at all times even if though they do not particularly agree with him. If a candidate does not vote on issues that Madigan proposes or supports he/she will no longer receive his financial support during elections. This means he will fund the opponent of whoever betrayed him, no matter who is more qualified for the position.
A democratic candidate in Illinois can no longer win an election in Illinois if they do not support Michael Madigan. This has transformed Illinois into more of a corrupt state that does not have candidates who look out for the best interest of the people who have voted them in, but for the man who will fund their campaign. He has been dubbed the democratic machine of Illinois due to the power he has in this state (Chow). Madigan and other career politicians will continue to dictate and poison our political institutions with corruption until term limits are put into place. The millions of dollars that Madigan flows into the hands of his democratic candidate supporters through campaign contributions is perfectly legal with Illinois laws. Just because it is legal does not mean it is moral or fair. The guidelines and regulations on our politicians today are not strict enough to minimize as much corrupt activity as possible.
Completely stopping political corruption could be next to impossible but at least attempting to reduce it, would be a good start for our government. One way it can be reduced is for lawmakers to finally create new stricter guidelines and restrictions on politicians while they serve the public, such as term limits and caps on campaign contributions. Term limits are a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office. This prevents officials from treating their time in office serving the public as a institution that they will have plenty of time to be apart of. It would result in officials to acquire a sense of fragility and temporariness about the institution they are apart of, ultimately coming to a realization that they have to be as efficient as possible while having the ability to be in their positions before time runs out. Not having term limits allows politicians to not have a sense of urgency in completing their tasks, leading them to push their work to the future again and again, knowing they will still get paid.
The pressure term limits puts on politicians will be an essential key to maximize the productivity of the government. Term limits will also reduce corruption in the political system by driving away some lobbyists and special interest groups/corporations. When politician’s campaigns are gifted money by lobbyists or special interest groups they will always expect something in return from the politicians when they are in office, that will be beneficial to them or their business. They look at the money donated towards the politician as an investment that will help them in the future. Requiring a new politician every few years will make some of these groups rethink the worth of their political investment if they will have to fund a new one for every or every other election. In most cases it will not be worth the money and politicians will no longer be swayed by these special interest groups when making policy decisions. Politicians will be more independent and could focus more on working for the best interest of the citizens that have voted them in, rather than the ones that donated the most money. These donations should also have a limit on them so the races between candidates would be more fair from a financial aspect (Greenberg).
Politicians will continue to participate in these intolerable acts that undermine the root principles on which our political system was founded on; trust and fairness between the people and the state. Corruption will continue to flourish within the political system if the officials, which the public has been deceived by, are not properly punished and do not receive the consequences they deserve based on their illegal actions while serving the public unjustly. The enforcement of laws and regulations may seem to the public, as if it does not apply to politicians in some cases. For example, Democratic Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate J.B. Pritzker receiving a little of bit of special treatment when it came to his property taxes and when exposed, Pritzker was not held accountable or punished in anyway. Pritzker purchased a mansion on the Gold Coast worth nearly 6.25 million dollars.
When it was time for Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios to assess Pritzker’s property, it was valued at about 1.1 million dollars due to it being deemed uninhabitable. It was supposedly uninhabitable since all of the toilets were removed out of the mansion. What would have been a $117,087 tax bill on the mansion last year instead plummeted to $19,719, an 83 percent discount. Total up all the savings for Pritzker and you approach a 230,000$ deduction. Ironically, Joseph Berrios, the assessor from the county also happened to be the chairman of Cook County’s Democratic Party working to help defeat Bruce Rauner, Pritzker’s opponent for Illinois Governor. Pritzker claims he appealed his taxes just like thousands of other Cook County property owners do but, Chicago is familiar with stories of politicians receiving special treatment on their property taxes, usually by corruptly utilizing their political connections, as seen in Pritzker’s case (The Pritzker Property).
According to the IRS, “attempt to evade or defeat paying taxes: Upon conviction, the taxpayer is guilty of a felony and is subject to other penalties allowed by law, in addition to imprisonment for no more than 5 years, a fine of not more than $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for corporations, or both penalties, plus the cost of prosecution. Fraud and false statements: Upon conviction, the taxpayer is guilty of a felony and is subject to imprisonment for no more than 3 years, a fine of not more than $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for corporations, or both penalties, plus the cost of prosecution (Income Tax)”. Illinois citizens have yet to see any legal action taken on the man who soon has the potential to be the next Governor in regards to his property tax scandal. Just another corrupt politician added to the list of many in the state. This, way to common in Illinois, breed of politicians must be punished like the rest of the population and should not receive any sort of special treatment due to their status in the political system like they currently do.
When Politicians get elected into their positions they are expected to serve the public honestly and not for their own personal gains. Sometimes that is not the case and that is why a cross party Board of Anti-Corruption should be established in Illinois, and potentially all over the nation. The board monitoring a specific political party would be made up of members of the opposite party of which they are supervising and should not have any political ambitions besides that of being a member of their party. For example, if a Democrat is elected into office he will be observed by the Republican Board of Anti-Corruption, made up of members of the Republican Party, with no intention of future personal advances in government. The boards would have nothing to gain from being apart of the board besides keeping their opposing party in check at all times and preventing corruption from occurring under their watch. This cross political party platform would ensure that no slack is given and no favors are being made between board members and politicians with aligning political affiliations. These corruption deterring institutions would almost guarantee that politicians govern honestly and within the law.
To have a corruption free government, its transparency must be of utmost importance while creating policies and serving the public. The people who have decided to elect politicians into office should have the ability to easily access what exactly they are doing while in their position. The public should be able to clearly see and understand exactly how the budget is orchestrated and other financial information related to government. This transparency of information should also apply to and include political campaigns, which in some cases politicians dishonestly mismanage. Being a politician is one of the only careers where a person does not have to meet certain goals or standards to get paid. For example, in the real world if a mechanic does not repair his clients car, the client will not pay the mechanic since he didn’t complete his work. That is not the case in American politics. A politician will always get paid by their client, the American taxpayers, even if they do not do anything while in office. It is estimated that US politicians spend half their time collecting and marketing for campaign contributions for their next reelection while in office. Politicians every move must be made visible to the public to have a more clear perception of what they are doing on a day to day basis. This will ensure that lazy politicians will no longer have the ability to take advantage of the weak political system.
To prevent these dishonest activities from continuing to occur in the political system certain actions must be taken by the public. These actions include having the public vote in politicians who support term limits. Term limits as mentioned earlier will also help ensure politicians will spend their time focusing on issues to benefit their regions and communities which they are expected to represent to their best interest rather than obsessing over raising campaign funds for their next election. Keeping their main focus on working on policies for the people who voted them in will prevent politicians from slacking while in office. They must be held to a certain standard like the rest of the working citizens in America. To keep these politicians in check, standards and goals can be set by voters for politicians to meet while in office to receive their fair share of compensation. For example, how many bills they write, how many times they even show up to the capitol to work, etc… So the public knows what their government is spending money on, all funds and information regarding the funds such as where they are spent and what they are spent on should be posted online for easy access.
Political corruption leads to a sad future for a government and its people. When corruption continues to occur within the political system, people’s trust in politicians is ultimately damaged. Citizens will turn away from involvement with how they are governed. Then political corruption continues to relish unchecked. This is a problem in today’s society; therefore, lawmakers need to improve upon the practices currently used to have a stronger future. The current political system allows corruption to flourish because there are no term limits set in place, lenient if any punishments for corrupt politicians, and low public transparency on finances and their work. These issues can all be solved with new guidelines, laws, and agencies established for the government. If actually implemented into government not Illinois but the world as whole will benefit from the decrease in amount of corruption occurring within political systems.