Hard to shake clout culture

April 24, 2014 

When new allegations of patronage hiring cropped up in Illinois this week, Gov. Pat Quinn insisted that state hiring based on clout rather than competence was all in the past. "We have zero tolerance for anything on hiring that isn't exactly according to the rules," he told reporters.

Sorry, but does anyone really believe that? There have been too many abuses of power -- Quinn spending millions on an ill-conceived crime-fighting program in Chicago right before his last election, for example -- to quickly dismiss these new allegations about Illinois Department of Transportation hiring.

Abuse of power is not unique to the governor's office; it can happen in police departments, schools and city halls -- anywhere that leaders let their authority twist their vision and perspective. It's true what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

It can get to the point, as it seemingly did with former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon, that even the people in power believe the self-serving spin they use to justify their improper decisions.

Some of Bathon's co-conspirators/tax buyers recently began their prison terms, and it's breathtaking to consider the willful decisions they made to break the law and the harm they caused to others for their own financial gain.

Whether these IDOT hiring allegations can be proven remains to be seen. But given Illinois' history, it would be naive to think that the culture of corruption is no more.

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