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On eve of Chicago election, a call to confront city's legacy of corruption

A report on 'Patronage, Cronyism and Criminality' in Chicago is released in the waning days of the campaign. The next mayor, the authors say, has the power to end the city's scourge.

By Staff writer / February 14, 2011

Rahm Emanuel (c.) speaks while fellow candidates Miguel Del Valle (l.) and Bill 'Doc' Walls look on during a Chicago Mayoral debate at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago on Feb. 9.

Paul Beaty/AP

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Chicago

The next mayor of Chicago has the power to help end the city’s scourge of corruption, according to a new report by the University of Illinois at Chicago that outlines a plan to save taxpayers millions of dollars lost each year due to what it calls patronage, bribery, and theft at City Hall.

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The report, titled “Patronage, Cronyism and Criminality in Chicago Government Agencies,” dissects the major scandals that took place under the incumbent mayor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, and lists 340 city officials convicted of corruption-related wrongdoing since 1970.

The scandals, which are grouped in the report according to city agency, include unethical business dealings involving Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

“The patterns of patronage, waste and corruption are so pervasive as to suggest that corruption exists in most city agencies. As long as Chicago is run by ‘machine politics,’ corruption will be a hallmark of city government,” states the report, which was officially released Monday.

Crooked business dealings at the state, county, and Chicago city level cost Illinois taxpayers an estimated $500 million a year, it says.

Report coauthor Dick Simpson, who teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a former Chicago alderman, says that while Mayor Daley has never faced any federal indictments, he “has allowed corruption to go forth” under his 22-year watch by resisting any major reform measures that would have dissuaded city officials from using their positions fraudulently.

“He would argue he would like the city to be cleaner, but, in fact, he abetted or has not curtailed the corruption that does exist,” Mr. Simpson alleges.

The report was released a week before the Feb. 22 mayoral election in an attempt by its authors to make corruption a priority for the campaign’s two remaining televised debates, Monday and Thursday this week. They are also asking that all six candidates endorse its 15-point agenda they say will lead to significant reform.

So far only two candidates have publicly endorsed the report’s reform agenda: former Chicago Public Schools Board President Gery Chico and William “Dock” Walls.

Mr. Chico is trying to use the report as leverage against frontrunner Rahm Emanuel. Chico is critical of Mr. Emanuel’s past associations, including his tenure as a board member of federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac between 2000-01, just before the firm misstated its earnings by $5 billion.

In a statement released Monday, Chico spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said of Emanuel: “To think that someone who has consistently turned a blind eye to sketchy activity occurring all around him is suddenly going to turn over a new ethical leaf as mayor requires the willing suspension of disbelief.”

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