Wednesday, June 22 2022

Is it a new day or the same old, the same old?

Since being elected Speaker of the Illinois House last year, Emanuel “Chris” Welch has pledged to banish the self-interest, influence and corruption that have dominated our politics for decades.

But recent campaign contributions from Welch’s wife raise questions about whether Michael Madigan’s bad old days are really over. Madigan resigned as Speaker of the Illinois House in January 2021. In March 2022, he was indicted on 22 counts of racketeering and bribery. Madigan claims his innocence.

ShawnTe Raines-Welch, who is running for Cook County judge in the June 28 Democratic primary, “has received more than $200,000 in campaign funds from current state legislators and a retired lawmaker. “, reported WTTW News last week.

“House Speaker Welch personally asked some of the state representatives if they would donate to his wife’s campaign,” according to WTTW. “They delivered big.”

For example, this year the Raines-Welch campaign brought in contributions from Chicago-area House Democrats, including State Rep. Greg Harris ($50,000), State Rep. Marcus Evans ($47,000) and $25,000 each from Reps. Elizabeth Hernandez, Jehan Gordon-Booth and Robyn Gabel.

The Raines-Welch campaign is building a broad and enthusiastic coalition of supporters, volunteers and donors, including elected officials, and is “deeply grateful” for their support, spokesperson David Ormsby told WTTW.

On Friday, Welch was asked about the donations at an independent press conference.

He has the right to provide for his wife and his “best friend”, he replied. Welch noted that she was running in the 4th Judicial Sub-Circuit. This area, which includes parts of Chicago’s south, west and northwest suburbs, “has never elected a black person or a woman to the bench,” he said.

Raines-Welch is an attorney with 12 years of litigation experience. She has been deemed qualified and/or recommended by numerous Illinois bar associations, according to her campaign website.

The donors in question are longtime personal friends who “know this exceptionally qualified black woman,” Welch said. “And a lot of them reached out and said, ‘How can we help? Voluntarily said, ‘How can we help?’ »

He added: ‘Nothing reported in the past few days is unethical or illegal.’ And instead of questioning the donations, people “should really be talking about an exceptionally qualified black woman who can make history.”

There is enormous power in the presidency – the ability and resources to reward and punish colleagues with money, human power and appointments.

These donors can be seen as helping a qualified woman of color contribute to the public good.

But they could also be seen as trying to curry favor and get ahead with their powerful leader. It lasted all day in Madigan’s time.

Welch has rightly and repeatedly promised that this is a new day in Illinois and that he is bringing strong ethics and transparency to the Statehouse.

Surely we need it. For decades, our politics and our government have been buried under an avalanche of corruption.

In 2020, Chicago remained the most corrupt city in the nation, according to a new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Illinois ranks third among the 50 states.

In Chicago and Illinois, major political corruption cases continued to make headlines, while bribery convictions nationwide declined, the researchers found.

Chicago ranked first for bribery for the third straight year, according to the study, which analyzed public bribery convictions from the US Department of Justice.

“The number and political stature of Illinois elected officials and business leaders who have been implicated, charged or convicted in 2020 is staggering,” said University of Illinois political science professor Dick Simpson. in Chicago and lead researcher on the report, in a statement. .

It is food for caution. Politicians who operate in a way to bring them personal benefits could find themselves on this slippery slope.

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter@mediadervish

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