Corruption corner: Funny cartoons, serious message

Matt DietrichReboot Illinois

Jan 23, 2014

Our governors, our congressmen, our county board members. A small town clerk who embezzled millions. You name the level of government, Illinois has an example of corruption. That’s not good for taxpayers but it’s great for editorial cartoonists. has existed for barely more than a year and already we’ve amassed quite a trove of editorial cartoons that comment on corruption in our state. Today we debut the first in what soon will be a series of editorial cartoon galleries that gather groups of cartoons on specific topics.

For the inaugural edition, we’ve chosen the very broad topic of corruption. There’s a design to the timing here.

Dec. 9 marked the five year anniversary of Rod Blagojevich’s arrest for attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama was elected president. This was the undisputed low point for Illinois politics, which already enjoyed a rich and, unfortunately, well deserved reputation for corruption.

Many of these cartoons are funny (some hilariously so). But as the Blagojevich follies played out from 2008 until his imprisonment in March 2012, Illinois fell into a dark fiscal abyss that included both a crippling state budget/pension crisis and a stubbornly high unemployment rate that persists to this day. The latter has been linked to the state’s precarious financial status, which has made businesses in Illinois reluctant to expand and has scared off some with thoughts of coming here. The leadership vacuum of Blagojevich’s absentee governship had a big role in all this.

That’s the real price of corruption and it’s no laughing matter.

One way corruption has taken hold in Illinois is in the building of a complacent culture among Illinois lawmakers. By rigging legislative maps to make them friendly to their member office-holders, political party leaders have built a system in which candidates rarely, if ever, face electoral challenges. This security is a breeding ground for corruption, not to mention a government that exists to reward its own rather than to act on behalf of the people.

It’s also a breeding ground for the kind of intractable stalemates we’ve seen at both the state level (over pension reform) and in Washington (over everything).

We believe voters should choose office holders, not the other way around, and we’ve signed on with a movement to put redistricting reform on the 2014 ballot. This is a huge effort that needs your help to collect the 300,000 signatures required for a ballot initiative in Illinois. Click here to find out how to help.

We’ve also got an easy way to let your lawmakers know you want them to back the redistricting reform effort. Use our Sound Off tool to look up your representatives in Springfield and send them an email voicing your concern about what has become the Illinois political system’s “incumbent protection program.” You can write your own message or use the one that’s already there. It’ll go to both your state senator and representative and to Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Click here and Sound Off!

And as you scroll through the cartoon collection below, be sure to click the links to related content.


Better Government Association President and CEO Andy Shaw wrote an excellent piece about the damage of the “incumbent protection program” in this column. Even Rahm Emanuel, a practitioner and beneficiary of gerrymandering, said in October that reforming the mapping system is the most needed political reform today. Adlai Stevenson III listed redistricting reform among his top ideas for reforming Illinois in this piece from April 2013.

Pay to play in Illinois? Never!


The Rod Blagojevich trials played out like live-action cartoons. This wasn’t intended as a courtroom sketch, but it came close.

Elk in the headlights

stantis jesse elk full

Among the items Jesse Jackson Jr. spent $350,000 in campaign money on were a pair of stuffed elk heads. No kidding. But his prison sentence didn’t make the list of Top 10 longest corruption sentences for Illinois politicians.

Hunting the rarest of species


You don’t have to be from Illinois to comment on its politics. Dana Summers of the Orlando Sentinal joins in the fun here. You can join the effort to restore integrity to Illinois government. Click here to help end the Illinois uncumbent protection program.

Name change

Lincoln license plate 2-25-2013

Honest Abe takes issue with his successors in the Prairie State. Perhaps he overheard the discussion at this academic symposium on why Illinois is so rife with corruption.

There’s one in every deck


Cook County Board Member William Beavers had a colorful excuse for everything, right up until his conviction for feeding campaign money into slot machines. William Beavers lived up to his reputation for colorful quotes even after receiving his sentence. Click here!

All in the Family


Government is the family business for Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and the many relatives on his payroll. The Berrios family is far from the only funtioning political family in Illinois. Click here for more Illinois political family drama.

A bang-up job on redistricting

Stantis-Illinois-remap-full-0516 (1)

House Speaker Michael Madigan can get anything done if he puts his hammer to it. Hmm. This reminds us of another cartoon about Mike Madigan.

All aboard the corruption express

Stantis-Metra-0804 (3)

All routes lead to corruption for the Metra commuter railroad in 2013. Even by Illinois standards, Metra is an amazing scandal that just keeps rolling.

Off the rails


Metra became the little engine that couldn’t as scandal engulfed it starting in summer 2013. Seems there’s always so much more to the Metra scandal!

Truth station


This station isn’t on any of Metra’s routes. By the time we wrote this editorial, we were getting pretty annoyed about all this.

Absentee Sandi


Sandi Jackson resigned from the Chicago City Council as she was implicated in the case against her husband. But she already had checked out. This timeline tracks the Jacksons’ rise and fall.

Hello, roomie!


Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rod Blagojevich, together again. Maybe now they can talk about that Senate seat for sale. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin found only sadness as sentencing day arrived for the Jacksons, whom he knew well.


topbunkblagoryan (1)

They’re doubling up Illinois governors in federal prison these days. This figured prominently in our list of 12 ways to know you’re from Illinois. Take the quiz here!

Here are 5 other must-read pieces of content that you may be interested in.

Illinois property tax credit a “relief?”

Which Illinois counties have the highest home prices and property taxes?

Want to tell your elected officials what you think? Use our Sound Off tool. 

Watch Chicago’s middle class disappear with this map.

12 more ways you know you are from Illinois.

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