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Juries send messages to deaf politicians

Updated: October 28, 2011 12:24PM

When in the course of human events, the people lose faith in their government ...

Juries are forced to send messages to politicians who are deaf and dumb.

Etch Rod Blagojevich’s name in the Illinois Wall of Shame.

The wall doesn’t actually exist, but it would be a remarkable tourist attraction if it did.

Many years ago, a federal judge in Chicago, exasperated by the number of government officials who had been convicted of public corruption in Illinois, came up with the concept of a Wall of Shame while sentencing a former Southland mayor to prison.

It would be similar to the Vietnam Wall Memorial, he said, but instead of listing the honored dead it would include the names of governors, congressmen, judges and other government officials who had betrayed the public’s trust.

The judge seemed to think it might act as a deterrent. But he had already noted that all those federal corruption trials, all the publicity that had resulted, had failed to stop others from following the same path.

Blagojevich, the former governor, believes he did no wrong.

He said he was “stunned” by a jury’s unanimous verdict Monday that he tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat, attempted to shake down a children’s hospital executive and extorted campaign contributions from a racetrack official in exchange for legislation.

Blagojevich may have been stunned, but not the vast majority of residents in this state.

Only five years earlier, former Gov. George Ryan, in the same federal courthouse, was convicted on corruption charges and expressed no remorse. It was a culture of corruption in Springfield that Ryan blamed for his downfall.

These politicians are deluded, but you have to ask yourself how they came to this place, just as you would wonder why a neighbor would run out of his house naked and bark at the moon.

And when lots of people start running naked in the streets and barking, well, it makes you think of a Stephen King novel.

The jury foreman in this Blagojevich trial said the jurors felt they owed it to their fellow residents of Illinois to send a message. Corruption will not be tolerated.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald lauded the jurors for their public service.

But I doubt that many Illinois residents feel better about their government today or believe that public officials here have gotten the message.

Crooks! They’re all crooks.

That’s the way the average citizen views the political leadership of this state.

And when lawmakers in Springfield create district maps that make fair elections nearly impossible, it is difficult to believe there has been any change in the culture of corruption.

Outside of the federal courthouses, there seems to be no way to hold the political tyrants in Illinois accountable for their actions.

In retrospect, it seems difficult to believe that the people of Illinois didn’t see Blagojevich for the double-talking, backstabbing, self-promoting wretch that he is.

“No tax increase,” was Blagojevich’s campaign promise, and it helped him win two elections.

You would hope that would be enough to dissuade those who believe that taxes are the most important issue in any campaign for public office.

And you may recall there were many after the first Blagojevich trial who claimed he was being persecuted.

“Leave the poor man alone,” they whined. “What’s the point of putting him and his poor family through this again? And at what cost to the taxpayer?”

Because a crook, especially one who has destroyed the public’s faith in its government, must be punished.

People must still believe there is justice in the end for those who would abuse their office for personal gain.

Even if that doesn’t stop the next governor, the next congressman, the next suburban mayor from doing the same.

I believe sentences are far too light for public officials convicted of public corruption. There is no greater crime against society.

Blagojevich was a scoundrel who would have sold a U.S. Senate seat if he had not been arrested by the FBI before the deal was done. I believe that.

Of course, we still don’t know for a certainty who would have bought that Senate seat. For that reason alone, I wish the federal government had waited another day.

Too many politicians are breathing easy today because during the Blagojevich trial they were not implicated in his misdeeds.

And that bothers me.

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