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Mr. Murphy's right: Let's drain 'sea of corruption'

Monday, January 26, 2004
Crain's Chicago Business

We support Patrick Murphy's call for a Cook County ordinance barring businesses or individuals who contribute more than $3,000 to political candidates from county contracts. We support such a ban at the city and state levels, too.

The Cook County public guardian proposed the ban last week in testimony before a panel investigating the fire that killed three of his workers in the County Administration Building. Never known for his tact, Mr. Murphy had the temerity last week to blame the fire on what he called a "sea of corruption" that has covered Illinois for generations. That corruption, he said, enabled a politically connected company that doles out hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to land the management contract for the county building despite a track record that included a fatal fire and building code violations at other properties it managed.

Mr. Murphy's message was that corruption killed his workers and three others in a smoky stairwell last October, just as it killed the six Willis children 10 years ago in a fiery accident caused by a truck driven by a man who'd paid a bribe for his Illinois truck driver's license.
It's hard to argue with Mr. Murphy's point, or his proposal for cutting the link between campaign cash and government contracts. Banning political contributors from government contracts would end the legalized bribery that passes for campaign finance in Illinois, and make merit the only basis for awarding public dollars. It would be good for businesses and taxpayers, too, eliminating the "pay to play" system that adds costs to government contracting.

But damming the cash stream that feeds our sea of corruption would dry up the lubricant of an antiquated spoils system that enriches Illinois politicians and their cronies. So, don't expect it to happen unless some political leader is serious about "ending business as usual" in this state. How about it, Gov. Blagojevich?

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