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Putting teeth in ethics reforms

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
Editorial

In recent times, there has been much talk of ethics reform in this state, and this county, and this city -- and some promising legislation to back up that talk. But if the people hired to investigate officials for corruption are investing in those officials' political futures, can such reforms be worth the paper they are written on?

The question was raised by this week's revelation that ostensibly independent appointees charged with monitoring political activities in Cook County contributed to Cook County President John Stroger's campaign fund. Among them: Inspector General Joseph Price and his predecessor, James Whigham; auditor Laura Burman, and ethics director Jennifer Vidis. Their contributions, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, were not great, and nothing Stroger (who has cut the budgets of their offices) couldn't have done without. But that didn't save them from the taint of conflict of interest -- even if his spokesman passed them off as an innocent manifestation of Stroger's "broad base of support."

We're pleased by Stroger's Monday announcement that he would join Gov. Blagojevich and Mayor Daley in not drawing on contributions from ethics officials. We only wish he had instituted this policy change of his own volition, and not waited for the public to get wind of it to act.



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