How to undo an unwelcome ‘brand’; Illinois as ‘most corrupt state’

On Chicago’s WLS talk radio this morning, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) urged Illinois’ new junior Senator, Roland Burris, to resign following Burris’ admissions that he had tried to raise money for disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which followed his admission Sunday that he had been asked by the former Governor’s brother to raise money but he had refused, which followed his testimony under oath to the Senate Ethics committee early this year that he had not had any contact with G-Rod or his representatives in connection with the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.


It now appears that Burris (above)  tried to raise money for the disgraced Governor at the same time he was making it known that he wanted to be appointed to the vacant Senate seat. The fact that he failed to find any willing donors isn’t much of a response to those questioning his ethics; it just means that he may be a dishonest politician who is also an inept fundraiser.

Burris’ ever-worsening admissions “just reinforce Illinois’ brand as the most corrupt state in the country,” Kirk said. “We need to restore Illinois’ reputation.”

Who can disagree? It seems that we have reached and passed the tipping point in public opinion. “Chicago-style politics” used to be an almost endearing term for the sharp elbows one needed as a politician in the“City of Broad Shoulders.” Now politics in Illinoisis has sunk to the level of being a too-long-running national joke.” Such as this bit:

Rod Blagojevich was in the middle of his second term as governor of the state of Illinois. They impeached him and tossed him out as governor, and he is banned from participating in Illinois politics for the rest of his life. Fortunately you can participate in Illinois politics long after you’re dead.” – David Letterman.

The resignation of Burris, followed by a special general election to fill the Senate seat would be good first steps toward restoring the state’s reputation. (But even that won’t come easy. Democrats will want new Governor Pat Quinn to appoint someone to fill the vacancy, not wanting to risk losing the Senate seat to a Republican challenger.)

But then the long process of real reform must begin. Rules need to change; more importantly, behavior needs to change. Bring the back-room deals out in the open to see if they pass the sniff test. Contracts and agreements shouldn’t stink of rotten behavior. Consistent transparency will help the state, over a long period of time, lose its unwanted brand in favor of all the positive things the state should rightly be known for.

- Jon Harmon

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