Corruption Risk Report Card
Rank among 50 states: 11th

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The story behind the score

Illinois’ infamous ethical legacy has led to limited reforms. But disclosure requirements, conflict of interest laws, and other ethics regulation remain weak. Read more from SII State Reporter Amanda Vinicky.

Latest state news for Illinois

When investigators examined the operations of a sprawling New York social service organization, what they uncovered was deeply troubling. Board members of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council had almost no experience in nonprofit management. Several couldn’t name any of the group’s programs. Two of them could not identify the executive director, who in turn told investigators she was unaware of a fraudulent scheme carried out under her watch: Employees had squandered or stolen most of an $80,000 city grant.

As a result of that July 2010 report by New York City’s Department of Investigation, both the city and state quickly pulled the plug, suspending the organization’s grants, which provide practically all of its funding. But just as quick, the Brooklyn-based group won back it’s government support on the condition that it enact corrective measures, and today, the council has active grants from the city and the state totaling more than $50 million. Maybe that’s because the organization provides critical services, such as senior care and affordable housing, as a city spokeswoman said when funding was restored. But the council may also be thriving because its founder, Vito Lopez, was for years one of New York’s most powerful politicians — a state legislator who spent much of his career channeling that power through Ridgewood Bushwick.

SANTA FE — On February 20, New Mexico’s House Energy and Natural Resources Committee gathered for one of its regular meetings in a drab room here at the capitol, a circular building known as the Roundhouse. On the agenda: a bill that would hike fees and penalties for energy companies drilling wells in the state.

The votes fell along party lines, with five Republicans lining up against the bill and the committee's Democratic majority voting to send the legislation to the House floor. The Republicans argued the bill would stifle business and cost jobs, and for one lawmaker, the issue hit particularly close to home. Rep. James Strickler spends most of the year running his own small oil and gas production company, JMJ Land & Minerals Co. The bill would directly affect his profits.

On October 26, 2011, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that authorized construction of a multi-billion-dollar smart grid and reshaped how utility companies seek approval for raising electricity rates. Consumer groups opposed the measure, saying it was a handout to utilities.

But the final blow for opponents came three months later when former state Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who had pushed the bill through the legislature only to resign after winning its passage, registered his own lobbying firm and signed his first clients. Prominent among them: Commonwealth Edison, one of the state’s largest utilities.

State integrity news for Illinois, from the Northwest Herald:

Two new laws will make it easier for Illinois taxpayers to review public-sector salaries and state tax breaks doled out to companies. Both bills, signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, require agencies to put the information online.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he was happy that the bills – of which he is the chief sponsor – were signed into law Friday. “We need more sunshine at all levels of government, including the local levels,” Franks said.

Read the rest of the story at the Northwest Herald.

State integrity news for Illinois, from the Chicago Tribune:

Watch the lobbyists, lawyers and consultants swing through the House speaker's office door on any session day, many of whom hire his law firm to fight their property tax assessments or to provide "legal guidance." You don't need an ethics expert to deduce that something is very wrong in Illinois.

Legislative leaders who have private business interests should be required to disclose far more information about their moonlighting, so voters can judge what's a conflict.

Read the rest of the story at the Chicago Tribune.

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