Mapes corruption conviction again shows need for 4 Illinois ethics reforms
Former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s former chief of staff and confidant was found guilty of perjury. His conviction is a reminder Springfield has a long way to go on ethics reform.
While Mapes committed what are known as process crimes, or crimes stemming from an investigation, he could face up to 20 years in prison for the obstruction of justice charge and up to five years for federal perjury. The jury found Mapes lied in every instance alleged in the indictment.
His long association as top aide to indicted former House Speaker Madigan, who also faces trial for corruption, highlights the extent to which Springfield has been mired in a culture of corruption. And Mapes’ conviction should spur Springfield into action on ethics reform, just as lawmakers should have acted in May after the corruption convictions of the ComEd 4 for trying to bribe Madigan.
Since Madigan’s ouster in 2021 and the omnibus ethics bill that passed shortly after, lawmakers seem to consider the job finished. But Senate Bill 539 was a baby step towards reform that left large loopholes for bad actors to pass through easily.
If Springfield wants to end the culture of corruption, it needs to:
1) End the revolving door
The current revolving-door provision contains a loophole that would allow lawmakers who complete their terms to leave office one day and lobby their colleagues the next. There should be at least a one-year buffer between a lawmaker leaving office and then becoming a lobbyist.
2) Empower the Legislative Inspector General
The legislature’s watchdog, the Legislative Inspector General, should have the authority to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses and to publish findings of wrongdoing without getting permission from the peers of those being investigated.
3) Stop lawmakers from lobbying local governments
The omnibus ethics bill restricted lawmakers from being employed as lobbyists only for a firm registered to lobby the unit of government they serve. To end the culture of corruption, Illinois should close this loophole and prohibit any state lawmaker from lobbying any local governments in Illinois.
4) Give teeth to Illinois lawmakers’ conflict of interest rules
Legislators are on the honor system when it comes to revealing conflicts and eliminating themselves from voting in those cases. While Illinois does require lawmakers to file general financial disclosure statements, a lawmaker is not required to declare when he or she faces a conflict before taking a vote.
Illinois lawmakers should be required to declare a conflict of interest before taking any official action. They should recuse themselves from voting on legislation when they have such a conflict.
These proposals won’t fix everything that is wrong with Springfield, but they are another step on the road to ethics reform. The Mapes conviction is another reminder lawmakers need a push if they are going to advance reforms.