State of Embarrassment — Illinois

How former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state corruption in general affect the citizen embarrassment level in Illinois.
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You've Probably Heard About: Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Impeached and indicted for trying to sell President Obama’s vacated Senate seat, Blago is also accused of plenty else, like withholding government money from a children’s hospital until its leaders gave him $50,000 in donations. Alas, that didn’t stop the ex-governor from launching his own website and appearing on the reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice.

But Did You Know: The state’s previous governor was also a crook! When he was secretary of state, Republican George Ryan took bribes in exchange for licenses, contracts and leases. Ryan was eventually sentenced to more than six years in prison. As one Illinois journalist put it, “Instead of selling license plates, he gets to make them.”

They Said It: “There will be a Blagojevich odor in the air, and it will be with us day after day, like political Muzak.” — David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, raising the difficult question: What, exactly, does Muzak smell like?

The Silver Lining: Blagojevich’s successor as governor, Pat Quinn, touts his VIP membership card at Super 8 motels as a testament to his integrity and frugality. Alas, local reporters discovered that the incentive program ended five years ago. So there’s hope yet that Quinn turns into the deceitful cheat Illinois knows he can be.

Citizen Embarrassment Level: Grimly resigned. Government graft and illegal quid pro quos are as ingrained in the state psyche as the Cubs losing. Some things don’t change.

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