The arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the numerous acts of corruption and abuse of power spelled out in the federal prosecutor’s 76-page complaint should be enough to light a fire under the Illinois General Assembly.
Yes, Gov. Blagojevich should resign. But because that would be the honorable thing for him to do, a resignation is not expected.
If he does not resign, the General Assembly should pass a law stripping him of the power to appoint Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate.
But that is not enough. The Illinois House should immediately move forward with impeachment proceedings. Illinois cannot function in these troubled times under the leadership of a man who has lost the trust and confidence of the public.
For several decades, the men and women elected to the General Assembly and other statewide offices have not done enough to end the culture of corruption in state government and too many local governments.
At a minimum, state legislators – Democrats and Republicans – have been enablers of government corruption. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich came to power in a system energized by money from people buying access, contracts, tax breaks and other benefits.
None of them have done enough to change the system. Passing legislation to take away Gov. Blagojevich’s power to name the state’s next U.S. Senator and removing him from office are not enough.
The General Assembly must pass laws directly addressing the culture of politics that allows people like Rod Blagojevich to become political leaders. It is time for the General Assembly to pass tough new laws limiting the size of campaign contributions, banning contributions by corporations and unions, prohibiting large transfers of campaign cash by legislative leaders to candidates, creating a system of voluntary campaign financing of judges, taking politics out of legislative redistricting, strengthening the State Board of Elections, toughening lobbyist regulation and making it easier for the public to access public records through the Freedom of Information Act.
The General Assembly also should make certain the recent pay-to-play legislation, which will take effect Jan. 1, is enforced and that the State Board of Elections has the funding and determination to carry out its responsibilities under the new law.
Voters, too, share some responsibility.
Enough is enough. It is time for action.