What a year it's been! The long presidential election, the financial upheavals, the continuing crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan - so much to remember. The Washington Post took a look back at the biggest scandals of the year and concluded that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged effort to sell the Senate seat ranked as the second biggest scandal of the year. #1 went to Bernard Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme defrauded investors of as much as $50 billion. #3 on the Washington Post list: Elliot Spitzer. Also-rans include former US Senator Ted Stephens of Alaska, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and AIG, which spent $400,000 on an executive retreat the weekend after getting a $124 billion bailout from the US Government. That's tough competition, but our governor beat them all, nearly.
The Pew Center for the Public and the Press recently updated their list of the most-followed political scandals in America. Their ranking asks Americans if they are aware of stories in the news, and how closely they are following the story. The Blagojevich corruption story ranked third, behind #1 congressional check bouncing (April, 1992) and #2, the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky story (March, 1998). Our current governor's arrest ranks ahead of the Gary Hart/Donna Rice story (September, 1987) and the Elliot Spitzer prostitute story (March, 2008). To date, there are no allegations of sex in the Blagojevich story, but even so, it's already #3 of all time.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also put out a list, looking at the top 25 most corrupt American politicians of all time. Illinois is well-represented on the list, with Gov. George Ryan at #23, US Rep. Dan Rostenkowski at #21, and Gov. Otto Kerner at #13. And while it's early yet and the full details have yet to come out, based on the record so far, Olbermann is confident enough in Illinois to put Rod Blagojevich at #3 on the all time list of corrupt American politicians. Of course, Rod is still in office, so there's time for him to improve his ranking. #2, Charles Forbes, who ran the Veteran's Bureau for President Warren G. Harding and managed to embezzle nearly a quarter of his $1.3 billion budget; and #1, New York City's Boss Tweed, might want to watch their backs.
All kidding aside, let's hope that 2009 brings a new culture to Illinois politics.