Illinois has a ‘culture of corruption’ Simon Institute speaker says

David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, talks about governmental corruption in Illinois from his home in suburban Chicago. Greising was speaking remotely as part of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s Understanding Our New World discussion series.

The Southern

The head of the Better Government Association says Illinois has a “culture of corruption” and one cure is deep-dive journalistic investigations.

David Greising, president and CEO of the Chicago-based not-for-profit that calls itself Illinois’ non-partisan full-service watchdog, participated in a virtual conversation Wednesday with John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He said ethics problems in Illinois government are long-standing and deep-seeded.

“There is something about the culture of corruption that is undeniable about the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with our tolerance for conflicts of interest that are not the case in other areas.”

Greisling, who has been with the BGA since 2018 after stints at the Chicago Sun Times, City News Bureau of Chicago, Business Week, Reuters and the Chicago Tribune, pointed to several examples of conflicts of interest.

He pointed to the dual role Michael Madigan had for many years when he was speaker of the Illinois House at the same time that his law firm was one of the state’s top firms in real estate tax appeals. He also suggested Madigan’s tenure of more than 35 years as speaker was a long-standing conflict of interest.

“When you allow one person to hold that much power for that long, you’re going to have compromises, etc. that are just going to happen,” Greisling said. “Fixing corruption in Illinois will require a change in the culture.”

Greisling said he has been disappointed that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not done more to change the culture.

“Pritzker ran as an ethics reformer, but when the major ethics reform package was being considered, he was basically a no-show. He signed a law and declared victory for reform that was really just not up to the measure of the reform and so we missed a moment, so there’s a tolerance for corruption here,” Greisling said.

He continued, “He had super majorities in both houses and he would have had support had he chosen to take some political risks in favor of ethics reform.”

Greisling said Pritzker’s failure to act on serious reform may be seen as a negative should the governor have presidential aspirations.

The Better Government Association is known for deep investigative reporting, what Greisling calls “solutions journalism”. He said efforts like those of his group can lead to better accountability with elected leaders.

“Solution journalism is objective, fact-based investigative journalism. The idea is you apply the same rigor that you use in investigative reporting to problems in government to find out what has been tried elsewhere and what works and what doesn’t where reforms have happened,” he explained. “I think that is one factor that can get us out of this.”

He continued, “It is wash, rinse, repeat the cycle on corruption, financial mismanagement and some of the crime issues and the other significant issues facing the state.”

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Region: Southern,Local,City: Carbondale,Region: Carbondale

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July 20, 2022 at 05:39PM

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