CHICAGO — Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) has joined an infamous but ever-growing group in Chicago: convicted politicians.
Thompson, the grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was forced to resign from City Council after he was convicted Monday for lying to regulators and five counts of filing false federal income tax returns.
Since 1969, 37 members of Chicago City Council have been convicted of a crime. Chicago is the United States’ most corrupt city, and Illinois the third-most corrupt state, according to an annual report from University of Illinois at Chicago.
The 2021 report, co-authored by professor and former Ald. Dick Simpson, uses corruption statistics published by the Department of Justice. From 1976-2019, 1,170 people in Chicago were convicted on federal charges of corruption.
“They see there’s easy money,” Simpson said. “And that there are many who are never caught. The actions we see are only the tip of the iceberg.”
Simpson said 2022 could be a “banner year for convictions” as at least three aldermen are facing charges or have recently been convicted of crimes.
“There have been more indictments and major cases,” Simpson said. “But just convicting people isn’t enough.”
During Simpson’s time as the 44th Ward alderman from 1971-79, he was offered a handful of bribes, he said.
“I’m sure everyone has,” Simpson said.
The rising costs for aldermen to run a successful campaign — which Simpson studied to average about $250,000 — has pushed officials to take small bribes and backroom payments in exchange for political favors, he said.
“We still have a culture of corruption with machine politics,” Simpson said.
Journalist Bill Cameron, who covered City Hall for 50 years and retired in 2021, said corruption is “so out in the open.”
“I’d like to say it’s getting better, but it’s not,” he said.
The joke at City Hall was, “You can’t be around the place very long without getting hit with a little falling graft.”
“You had to consider working there as entertainment, or it would make you sick,” Cameron said. “It’s part of the corrupt tradition of the city of Chicago — so many greedy politicians seeing other politicians getting away with stealing.”
Cameron said in his opinion, “we catch only about 3 or 5 percent of the bad guys.”
“Just too many people there couldn’t be trusted around money,” Cameron said. “We put some of these guys in a penitentiary, but they just keep stealing.”
Aldermen who have been convicted or could face trial in 2022 include:
Patrick Daley Thompson
Daley Thompson has claimed innocence since he was charged in April for income tax fraud and making false statements to regulators.
Daley Thompson received $219,000 in loans from that bank, Washington Federal, between 2011 and 2014, before he was elected to City Council in 2015.
Prosecutors said Daley Thompson went on to file for deductions even though he was not making payments on the loans he took out. He then lied to collection agencies and federal authorities to pay less, prosecutors said.
The bank was shut down in 2017, just two weeks after its president was found dead of an apparent suicide.
In court on Monday, prosecutor Michelle Peterson said Daley Thompson planned to pocket about $15,000 over five years.
Daley Thompson did not testify, but his lawyers argued he was only guilty of sloppy bookkeeping and forgetfulness.
Daley Thompson is set to be sentenced July 6. The most serious counts carry a maximum sentence of 30 years, but probation is a possibility.
Now that Daley Thompson has resigned, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has 60 days to fill the aldermanic vacancy in the 11th Ward. Lightfoot will be required to appoint a new alderman with the consent of the City Council, and the new alderman’s term will last until Thompson’s current term is up in 2023.
Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) is looking to dodge jail time on his wire fraud and money laundering convictions.
In a sentencing memorandum filed last month, Muñoz’s attorney wrote that community service and supervised release is a “sufficient, but not greater than necessary” penalty for Muñoz. Federal prosecutors argued the former alderman deserves to spend a year in jail, according to WTTW.
Last year Muñoz pleaded guilty to 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering after taking money from the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus to first help pay an overdue tuition bill.
Muñoz went on to swipe nearly $38,000 from the Caucus between October 2016 and June 2020. The former alderman took out cash withdrawals and rang up debit card charges and hid the fraud by making false reports. He used the money for iPhones, sports tickets, sightseeing trips and skydiving excursions.
Muñoz was first appointed to the City Council by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1993, and left office in 2019 after deciding not to run for reelection. He was indicted in April 2021.
In a court filing from December, the government asked U.S. District Judge John Kness to send Muñoz to prison for one year and one day, adding that he “abused his public position and betrayed the public trust.”
Ald. Ed Burke (14th) was charged in 2019 with racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, with prosecutors saying he steered work to his law firm.
The case has stalled and hovered above the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history since then. There is still no trial date set. Most recently, on Feb. 8, a judge heard arguments over key pretrial questions in the case.
Prosecutors say Burke, 78, held up permits for a Burger King in his ward and urged Burger King executives to donate campaign cash to Toni Preckwinkle, who was running for another term as Cook County Board president.
Burke pleaded not guilty and has denied wrongdoing.
Burke has served as alderman for more than 50 years, and he was once the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.
In a twist, it was another alderman who led the feds to Burke.
Former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) was outed as a federal informant in January 2019. He taped private conversations with Burke for more than two years, cooperating with federal investigators when they threatened to go after him for allegedly getting sex acts at massage parlors, free Viagra and campaign contributions in exchange for insider deals.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), 72, is the second-longest serving alderman with nearly 30 years on City Council. She and her chief of staff, Chester Wilson Jr., have been accused of taking bribes from a real estate developer.
Austin was charged last year with one count of conspiring to use interstate facilities to promote bribery, two counts of using interstate facilities to promote bribery and one count of willfully making materially false statements to the FBI.
Prosecutors said Austin accepted home improvements, appliances and furniture starting in 2016 from a contractor working on a $49.6 million project in her Far South Side ward. Austin and Wilson later gave taxpayer money to the construction company to help with infrastructure improvements in the ward, prosecutors have said.
Austin said in December she plans not to run for re-election if she’s drawn out her Far South Side ward.
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