Durkin in Crain’s “The fight against Statehouse corruption requires a strong watchdog”

This op-ed originally ran in Crain’s Chicago Business

In May of this year, Democrats pushed through legislation that they will be touting as “ethics reform” through the next election. Unfortunately, this “reform” stripped so much authority from the Office of the Legislative Inspector General that the current officeholder, Carol Pope, announced she would resign instead of staying in such a powerless, disrespected office.

The Office of the Legislative Inspector General is a monumentally important position that investigates misconduct of members of the General Assembly and ensures proper oversight of that body. The office is non-partisan and can give government employees, state contractors, and members of the public their only avenue of recourse against inappropriate behavior by elected officials.

To fill the Democrat-created vacancy, the four caucuses made appointments to the Legislative Inspector General Search Committee. Four outstanding and well-respected lawyers were appointed to the committee, Zach Fardon – former US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Bethany Biesenthal – former Assistant US Attorney for the Northern District specializing in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions – a highly respected retired Circuit Court Judge Marcus Salone and the former Director of the Illinois State Police and former assistant US Attorney Jeremy Margolis.

In nearly all government bodies worldwide, this group of respected leaders in the legal community would be taken seriously. But in Illinois, the most ethically challenged legislative body in the country, that was not the case.

Democrats in the General Assembly flat out rejected the recommended candidates and refused to support anyone for the role.

The Illinois General Assembly has so much corruption recently it is fair to say our state has been for sale to the highest bidder for nearly a decade. The admitted corruption of ComEd and their attempts to bribe Democrat public officials has led to numerous indictments – with more likely on the way.

In addition to ComEd, we have seen indictments of numerous public officials in the state’s red-light camera traffic enforcement, in connection to illegal gambling machines, or because of tax evasion and lying to the federal government.

A reasonable person would think that members of the General Assembly would want a strong Legislative Inspector General to regain public trust and send a clear signal that the old ways are done, that it really is a new day in Illinois. Unfortunately, the Illinois General Assembly continues to do business the same way it has always done, with no oversight, no checks and balances, and no true ethics reform.

The Legislative Inspector General Search Committee did their due diligence and recommended two strong candidates for the position of Legislative Inspector General.

Once again, instead of embracing change, Illinois Democrats refused to endorse either candidate, and Illinois faces the prospect of being without a Legislative Inspector General at a time when one is so desperately needed.

The Democrats have done this before to keep the office vacant and ensure no oversight of their actions. The last time this happened, just a few short years ago, cases of misconduct went uninvestigated for years and corruption was allowed to flourish. The Democrat-appointed chairperson of the Legislative Ethics Commission at that time was Senator Terry Link, a Democrat from Lake County. At the same time that Senator Link was actively preventing the vacancy in the office from being filled, he was also a cooperating federal witness who accepted a bribe from a sitting Democrat State Representative in exchange for his support on a gaming bill.

Sometimes you really have to be living through it to believe it. While the Democrat talking points will try to convince the public otherwise, they are just not willing or ready to change their ways.

Turning their backs on reform and preventing two qualified candidates from becoming the next Legislative Inspector General brings to mind the old phrase from the Chicago Democrat Machine, they don’t want nobody that nobody sent.