Some people call Illinois one of the most corrupt states. That’s a contentious point that I don’t necessarily agree with considering what came out of Texas recently and everything that is going on in Ohio and Florida. At least one crooked ex-politician from Illinois was brought down. What started out as an investigation into the “Licenses for Bribes” scandal uncovered massive corruption under GOP governor George Ryan. Charges including Racketeering and Tax Evasion. This is a man who didn’t withdraw money from the bank for three years. Sadly, the media is trying spin this as trouble for Democratic powerhouses Daley and Blago. While neither of them are squeeky clean, they were not the ones on trial and convicted. If they go to trial then we can criticize them. For now one more GOP mafioso is brought down. Read on to see why this affects the rest of the country and national politics.
Politics as Usual
Similar to the DeLay excuse, defense attorney Daniel Webb tried to base the defense around the premise that those damn liberals are trying to hamper the government by impeding how it is normally supposed to function. “Pay for play” politics is not how the government is supposed to function and because the corruption has gone unchecked for so many years does not make the process correct. Ryan is notorious in Illinois as a deal maker that both Democrats and Republicans loved. That is only because crooked politicians on both sides of the isle were allowed to dip into the kitty. Today’s guilty verdict on all 22 counts represented the people’s disgust for what passes for “politics as usual” and our condemnation of these crooked practices. Current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) said, “Today’s verdict proves that no one is above the law. And just as important, it proves that government is supposed to exist for the good of the people, not the other way around, and certainly not for the personal enrichment of those who hold public office.”
This statement goes for all politicians, not just the abundant corrupt Republicans being indicted these days. Not that it matters, but according to those who work with federal prosecutor Fitzgerald say that his politics are conservative. He isn’t one of those concerned about toeing the political line as he is interested more in cleaning the corruption out of the government and his party. We need to make sure our guys are clean and stay that way too. Blago and Daley, I’m looking at you…
Years of Service
Ryan’s comments about his years of service are meant to detract from the issue of the case. He is appealing to those people who still see the world and people as essentially good or evil. Sometimes good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Because you have years of service to the state does not allow you to bilk taxpayers out of money. It does not allow you and your friend to make millions off deals for computer systems that the state is buying by telling the companies that they need grease a middle man (who was not an official member of the government as well as not being registered as a lobbyist) in order to get this deal. Ryan did some positive things during his positions as Secretary of State and Governor but that’s not what this trial was about. It was about deciding if what he did was wrong. This argument can be extended to any national politician under indictment trying to guilt the public and courts into not enforcing justice equally.
No one saw him take an envelope of money…
One of the most contentious arguments Webb made during the trial was that there was no smoking gun, as if Ryan was supposed to document all the illegal transactions that took place. A lot of records Ryan had were shredded when investigators started sniffing around about the “licenses for bribes” scandal. Any direct evidence connecting him to the other crimes he was indicted on was lost, causing investigators and prosecutors to work extra hard – on the taxpayer’s dime no less. This was an eight year investigation and a seven month trial. The defense is estimated at spending over $20 million defending him. As Collins and Fitzgerald noted, the prosecution was outgunned and outmanned but thanks to the diligent and continually work of their team (a couple who I know personally and are very conservative – not that politics should matter with the law) were able to show indirectly that Ryan was guilty of racketeering, money laundering, tax evasion, and being a general bastard. Sadly, the last count isn’t indictable.
This style of prosecution scares many people involved in other bribing cases like the Abramoff case. Nowadays nobody is going to hand over money in an envelope marked “Bribe for (insert politician’s name)” but they think that this technicality gets them off the hook. Diligent investigators can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without direct evidence.
No Money Left…
When George Ryan was in office he did not draw money out of his bank account once. As soon as trouble looked like it was coming his way he gave massive amounts of his money and holdings to his children and wife. The defense showed pictures of his kitchen to show that he didn’t even have money to redo the kitchen. Now the point he is trying push is that this trial made Ryan flat broke and he will be on the streets rubbing elbows with the rest of us working slobs. However, Daniel Webb represented Ryan pro-bono despite the Ryan family being worth millions. Expect to see similar statements issued by indicted members of the national GOP.
Conservative commentators frequently go back to the argument that Ryan was a nice guy and even notorious Democratic Chicago mayor Richard Daley has spoken highly of him. This goes back to the “essentially good” argument that says nice guys can’t go to jail. If he was such a nice guy, then why did he do this?
Shooting the Messenger
The last refuge of a desperate conservative is always to shoot the messenger, whether it be Bush outing a spy network, DeLay and Frist complaining about activist judges (who happen to be conservative), or Daniel Webb trying to over turn this case because of “unusual developments in the past few weeks with the jury.” Some members of the jury had to be let go and the jury reconstituted. It shouldn’t have happened but that doesn’t make Ryan any less guilty. They will once again try to confuse the issue with a broad statement about the jury trying to get the public to vilify the jury members instead of focusing on the issue. More typical GOP tactics. Ryan also thanked those in the media who reported fairly and criticized people who didn’t dig deep enough (meaning those that didn’t report his mafia style government in a favorable light). When there is no hope left, shoot the messenger.