St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 28, 2011
By Terry Hillig and Kurt Erickson
From the Metro East to Springfield, Ill., reaction to the news of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's conviction featured a mixture of relief and condemnation.
State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, a former prosecutor, called the verdict "a disturbing reminder" of the need to carefully scrutinize candidates for high office.
Haine, a former prosecutor, applauded U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his office for the successful prosecution and said the decision to try the former governor a second time was correct, though some complained that it was a waste of money.
"Doing justice costs money, but it's a necessary cost in any constitutional system," he said.
State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said the verdict should be "a loud and clear message" to public officials in Illinois that corrupt conduct is unacceptable.
"'Pay to play' in Illinois needed to end, and I think it is about to end," Kay said.
But some Metro East residents were not hopeful that the verdict would change politicians' conduct.
"It should have some effect, but I doubt it," said Diane Yehling, 67, of Staunton.
Michael Patterson, 56, of Edwardsville, also was skeptical.
"It has been like that since the 1920s," he said. "I think they'll try to hide the money a little better now."
Blagojevich's former Capitol colleagues acknowledged that his criminal conviction was another low for the state. But some also saw it as a chance to move forward.
"Illinois is a much better place now that he's been tried and convicted," said State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "He certainly gave the state of Illinois a black eye."
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, was among the first lawmakers to publicly talk about impeaching Blagojevich. In June 2007, Bost and state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, questioned the governor's behavior when he called the Legislature into a lengthy special session.
"Rod was just bizarre," Bost said. "I'm ready to move on."
"I think justice is served today," added Eddy, who sat on the committee that recommended Blagojevich be impeached in January 2009. "He became a self-servant rather than a public servant."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, said the verdict proves Blagojevich was pursuing his own interests over those of the state.
"The jury's decision has reaffirmed that public servants work for the people and must pay a serious price if they fail to uphold the solemn duties of their office," Madigan noted in a statement.
A number of former colleagues said Illinois will be better off with the former governor behind bars.
"We have bipartisan corruption here," state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said, pointing to the conviction of Blagojevich's predecessor, Republican George Ryan.
The verdict brought out calls for more laws designed to battle corruption. Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said lawmakers should take a renewed look at ethics reform.
"It is time to beat back the Illinois culture of corruption, restore integrity to the Land of Lincoln and make sure these crimes never happen again," Simon said.
But state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-East Moline, said he's not sure more laws would guarantee a clean state.
"You can't legislate morality," Verschoore said. "There are going to be people who try to get around the laws."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who has been highly critical of Blagojevich, said, "I hope today's verdict finally draws this sad and sordid chapter in Illinois history to a close."
-- Bill Lambrecht of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.