Amendment 1 sponsor sentenced to prison for union ghost payroll scheme

Amendment 1 sponsor sentenced to prison for union ghost payroll scheme

Former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton was sentenced to one year in federal prison for embezzlement from a no-work union job. He sponsored the Amendment 1 proposal to make government unions nearly untouchable in Illinois.

Former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton was sentenced June 21 to one year in federal prison for embezzling nearly $250,000 from Teamsters Local 734. 

Cullerton, 52, plead guilty in March to accepting payments for a fraudulent job entailing little to no work for the union. He was also a sponsor of the bill asking voters Nov. 8 to put union power guarantees in the Illinois Constitution.

Prosecutors wanted 18 months, but Cullerton’s attorney John Collins requested probation and community service. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman settled for a year. 

“Every time you took that paycheck from the Teamsters without working for it, you knew that you were doing something wrong,” Gettleman told Cullerton in court. 

The Villa Park Democrat must also pay back the Teamsters his full earnings in restitution. He’s paid back $26,000 of the $248,000 he owes. 

Cullerton in court apologized to the Teamsters, telling Gettleman, “I’m not going to say I didn’t take advantage of the situation. I did.” 

Cullerton was still collecting his pension through his conviction, but lost the $2 million benefit after his conviction. He’s one of eight former General Assembly members to face federal charges in the past three years.

Cullerton sponsored a bill pushed by government worker unions to guarantee union dominance by outlining union power in the Illinois Constitution. If voters Nov. 8 approve Amendment 1, also known as the “Workers Rights Amendment,” it would guarantee a $2,100 property tax hike for the typical Illinois homeowner.

The amendment would cement four new provisions into the constitution that no other state allows. It would give unions a permanent right to collective bargaining over not just benefits, but any topic they choose – a power the Chicago Teachers Union has tried to wield to pursue its  social agenda on housing, immigration, “restorative justice,” wealth redistribution and defunding the police.

Gettleman said the amount of public corruption in Illinois is “depressing” and hopes the sentence sends a message to elected officials throughout the state. 

Cullerton can still legally run for office after completing his sentence. State Rep. Curtis Tarver II, D-Chicago, tried to change that by introducing legislation barring state officials with felony convictions from seeking office. 

In the past 20 years, corruption has cost taxpayers over $10.6 billion in lost economic growth, or more than $830 per Illinoisan. Illinois is ranked as the nation’s second-most corrupt state.

State elected leaders and their cozy relationship with government unions have driven much of the corruption, including empowering indicted former House Speaker Mike Madigan. Amendment 1 would return much of the power government unions lost when Madigan fell.

Cullerton was ordered to begin his sentence Sept. 13.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Cullerton would keep his state pension. He lost it upon conviction.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!