Politics

Will Blagojevich sentence help clean up Illinois?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Prosecutors say Judge James Zagel's sentence sends a message to public officials about corruption, but is that message being heard?

Ron, that long sentence is a game changer when it comes to how the courts in this region view public corruption convictions in the future. There are armed robbers and attempted murderers who will not do as much time as Rod Blagojevich was sentenced in federal court this afternoon. That's a fact not lost on the state's political class.

"Justice was served," said Pat Quinn, Rod Blagojevich's running mate in two elections and the only Illinois governor of the last three who has not been convicted of a crime. Quinn said the unusually long sentence was not unexpected.

"I think sometimes the only way you send a message to the public as well as those in public office is to have a very stiff sentence when someone commits a crime," said Quinn.

Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Wednesday.

After the verdict, moving among the reporters an pundits at the federal building was State Senator Kirk Dillard, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, and a possible candidate in 2014.

"We need to be vigilant and clean up state government. And to the voters: don't get apathetic, don't get discouraged. You've gotta vote, or bad guys like Rod Blagojevich are who you are going to get in public office," said Dillard.

Before Zagel ruled, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a news conference to introduce a task force to write new ethic rules for city government. He insisted it was not purposely scheduled for the day Blagojevich would be sentenced.

"We're not doing this in reaction to something. We're proactively doing it," said Emanuel. "I didn't wait for something to happen - I'm trying to get ahead of it to set clear rules."

Finally, the last politician to lose an election to Rod Blagojevich, current Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, had no sympathy for the convicted former governor.

"He is just a prime example of what happens when you've got hubris, and arrogance, and you think you can beat the system, and you're smarter than the system, and you're smarter than everyone else and you can B.S. your way through and you can get away with it," said Topinka.

In the political class Wednesday night, there was also a sense of relief. Politicians on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, were looking forward to Blagojevich going away - and this story going away.

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