Blagojevich is hardly the right spokesman for criminal justice reform

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By Brett Rowland
Guest columnist
Posted2/23/2020 1:00 AM

Rod Blagojevich is back in Illinois and we are all poorer for it.

President Donald Trump, who campaigned before crowds chanting "drain the swamp," sprung one of Illinois' many swamp creatures from prison on Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As federal investigators work diligently to root out corruption among the state's sitting political class, Blagojevich returned unabashed.

"I'm returning home today from a long exile a freed political prisoner," the former governor told the crowd gathered outside his Chicago home on Wednesday. "I want to say again to the people of Illinois who twice elected me governor: I didn't let you down. I would have let you down if I gave in to this. But resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."

It is worth remembering that this comes from a politician so crooked that he squeezed the CEO of a children's hospital for campaign contributions; a man so unfit for the office he held that his fellow Illinois politicians impeached him in the House (114-1) before the Senate voted unanimously to remove him from office.

Blagojevich was simply too corrupt for historically corrupt Illinois, where at least two former lawmakers are facing federal corruption felonies and who knows how many more will be indicted during the ongoing federal probe.

Blagojevich said during a news conference Wednesday in front of his home that he was just working tirelessly and selflessly to help the people of Illinois during his time in office, proving that his time in prison has done little to bring him any closer to the truth.

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Again it's worth remembering: he tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat. To wit: "I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there."

As Blagojevich carried on, bleeding from his chin after a shaving mishap, he did make a couple of worthy points about the state of the nation's criminal justice system. It, indeed, is broken and tilted heavily in favor of people with wealth and connections. He vowed to fight against those injustices.

The criminal justice system needs to be reformed, but Blagojevich is in no position to be a reform spokesman.

In the meantime, those state lawmakers in Springfield who aren't going to be facing indictment anytime soon should make it a priority to tighten up the rules regarding ethics in lobbying and in the legislature and put an end to the revolving door that immediately turns lawmakers into paid lobbyists.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who was caught on a federal wiretap seeking a political appointment from then-Gov. Blagojevich, has endorsed such legislation.

Those changes will help, but they won't solve the state's seemingly endemic public corruption. Voters need to insist on true independence and autonomy for the Legislative Inspector General and prevent the Legislative Ethics Commission from blocking the release of founded reports of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

Voters also need to push lawmakers to boot House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Michael Madigan, who simultaneously controls what bills get called and who gets party support.

Brett Rowland, browland@thecentersquare.com, is the Illinois editor for The Center Square, a taxpayer-focused initiative of the Chicago-based Franklin News Foundation.

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