Illinois is the second-most corrupt state in the nation, according to the University of Illinois-Chicago. And corruption costs the state economy at least $550 million per year. But the size and scope of government corruption is nothing new for Illinoisans.
What is new? Powerful Illinois lawmakers, Chicago aldermen, local mayors and business interests are involved in what appears to be one of the most wide-ranging federal corruption investigations in state history. This report is a continuously updated list of individuals and organizations that have been questioned, targeted, investigated, arrested, indicted or convicted as part of law enforcement’s anti-corruption activity in Illinois from 2019-2020.
In addition to knowing the faces of corruption, Illinoisans should understand the structural factors that give rise to misconduct in government, and know that the state could go a long way toward shedding its corrupt image by adopting policies that are common in other states. The Illinois Policy Institute supports the following anti-corruption reform measures, many of which were recommended in a 2009 statereleased following the indictment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich:
- Adopting restrictions on state lawmakers becoming lobbyists.
- Empowering the Illinois legislative inspector general to investigate lawmaker corruption. As is, this muzzled watchdog office must seek approval from a panel of state lawmakers before opening investigations, issuing subpoenas and even publishing summary reports.
- Mandating state lawmakers recuse themselves from votes in which they have a conflict of interest. There is no current state law or even parliamentary rule requiring Illinois lawmakers to disclose a conflict of interest or to excuse themselves from voting on issues where they have personal or private financial interests.
- Reforming the Illinois , which grant more concentrated power to the House speaker than any other legislative rules in the country.
- Using for capital projects, akin to Virginia’s model. This ensures infrastructure dollars are directed by need rather than .
- Passing a to end politically drawn legislative maps in Illinois.
Special thanks to reporters at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ and the Better Government Association.
Last updated: March 10, 2020
- 41-count federal indictment in August alleged Cullerton pocketed around $275,000 in salary and health benefits from the Teamsters for a do-nothing job. Pleaded not guilty.
- Disclosure of his charges came soon after Teamsters chief John Coli pleaded guilty to extortion charges
- Distant cousin of Senate President John Cullerton
- Following the indictment, Senate President Cullerton removed Tom as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and named him chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
- Pleaded guilty in January 2020 to bribery and tax fraud. Sandoval is cooperating with federal authorities and faces up to 13 years in prison.
- Took $250,000 in bribes from controversial red-light camera company believed to be SafeSpeed LLC and other “participants,” according to his plea agreement
- In September, the FBI and IRS raided Sandoval’s home as well as his government offices in Springfield and Cicero
- Former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, key driver of Pritzker’s infrastructure plan and gas tax hike
- Senate district overlaps with House Speaker Mike Madigan’s House district
- Sandoval shows federal agents seeking documents related to: Red-light camera company SafeSpeed, Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, asphalt boss Michael Vondra, at least four Commonwealth Edison or Exelon executives, Ceasar Santoy and his architectural firm Studio Arq., Gold Rush Gaming and its CEO Rick Heidner, and five unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation employees
- Subpoena served to ComEd in September asked about the company’s communications with Sandoval, according to the Chicago Tribune
- Resigned from office effective Jan. 1, 2020
- Arrested on one count of bribery of a state official in October
- Allegedly bribed a state senator in August in exchange for support of gambling-related legislation, which he also worked on as a registered city of Chicago lobbyist. Resigned from the Illinois House of Representatives following arrest.
- Prosecutors Nov. 13 requested a 60-day extension to indict Arroyo
- Former House Assistant Majority Leader and chairman of the Appropriations-Capital committee, which was key to passing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion infrastructure plan and gas tax hike. Thanked Pritzker for the capital bill in .
- Son, Luis Arroyo Jr., is a Democratic Cook County Commissioner
- 36th Ward committeeman for the Cook County Democratic Party
- Pritzker, his wife and brother-in-law are the subject of a federal criminal investigation arising from property tax breaks on a Pritzker mansion in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, according to an April report from WBEZ.
- A 2018 Cook County Inspector General investigation found now-Illinois First Lady M.K. Pritzker directed workers to remove toilets from the mansion in order to declare it uninhabitable, which resulted in more than $331,000 in property tax breaks. The report called this a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers and Pritzker pledged to repay the money.
Cooperating with federal authorities
- Senate Assistant Majority Leader; member of the Legislative Ethics Commission
- Believed to be the unnamed senator who wore a wire in the case against Arroyo. The Arroyo says a state senator became a federal source in 2016, but was dropped after authorities received evidence of the senator filing false income tax returns. He is now working with federal officials with hopes of receiving a reduced sentence, according to the complaint. Link denies he is the state senator involved in the Arroyo charges.
- Berwyn alderman and Pritzker’s appointee to the Illinois Tollway Board. Resigned from Tollway Board in October following release of unredacted Sandoval warrant, which showed authorities sought information on Santoy and his architecture firm. Pritzker also withdrew his nomination.
- Santoy’s attorney said officials Santoy neither he nor his company are a target of the investigation
- Voted for contracts with red-light company SafeSpeed in Berwyn. According to Illinois Policy Institute analysis, Berwyn has generated from red-light cameras since 2009, the highest lifetime total of any municipality outside Chicago.
- Sentenced to one year in prison on one count of felony wire fraud in June
- Admitted to stealing $14,000 from a charity he created for needy children and seniors in his South Side ward. Used the stolen funds to pay for fancy dinners, Mercedes-Benz accessories, his daughter’s college tuition and a gambling habit.
- Cochran is the 34th Chicago alderman convicted on corruption charges since 1972, and the third of the last four 20th Ward aldermen to be indicted while holding office
- Indicted on 14-count corruption charge in May, including allegations that he tried to steer business to his property tax law firm by strong-arming the owner of a Burger King franchise in his ward. Pleaded not guilty.
- Longest-serving alderman in Chicago history (1969-) and the most powerful member of Chicago City Council prior to the most recent federal investigation.
- Former Chicago Finance Committee Chairman (1983-2019) and former chairman of the influential judicial slating subcommittee of the Cook County Democratic Party.
- 14th Ward committeeman for the Cook County Democratic Party
- Longtime partner in one of the property-tax appeals firms in Chicago, Klafter & Burke. Stepped down earlier this year.
- Wife Anne Burke became chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in 2019, despite a WBEZ identifying at least 10 instances in which she decided on cases involving parties who at the time were clients of Klafter & Burke.
- Top political lieutenant for Burke’s 14th Ward office, charged in Burke indictment for allegedly aiding in shakedown of Burger King franchise owner. Pleaded not guilty.
- Helm was charged with one count of bribery on March 5, 2020
- Authorities questioned Helm and seized his phone in September 2019. Helm was named in search warrants and subpoenas served to state Sen. Martin Sandoval and a number of suburban local governments.
- Helm moonlighted as a consultant for red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC while earning $125,000 a year at the city of Chicago’s aviation department, a job he quit in August 2019
- Received a cut of every ticket charged from red-light cameras in Matteson and Glendale Heights, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
- Matteson has charged motorists more than $5.6 million in red-light camera tickets from five cameras since 2016, according to Illinois Policy Institute research
- Federal agents raided her 34th Ward office in June; investigation includes her
- Second-longest serving sitting alderman, behind Burke
- Vice chairwoman of the Cook County Democratic Party, sitting 34th Ward committeewoman
- Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019 ended Austin’s 12-year tenure as head of the Chicago City Council Budget Committee
- The Cook County Land Bank Authority in 2017 signed off on a property tax delinquency deal benefitting Austin chief of staff Chester Wilson Jr. That deal involved Boris Nitchoff, who was named in the Austin search warrant. The Chicago Sun-Times in November found Nitchoff and his family have been operating a large-scale property tax delinquency scheme in which they would buy back their own property tax debts for a fraction what they owed.
Cooperating with federal authorities
- Announced in November 2018 he would not seek re-election. In January, news broke that he had been wearing a wire in conversations with Burke, which led to Burke’s indictment.
- Was the fourth-longest serving sitting Chicago alderman (1996-2019). Originally appointed to his seat in 1996 by Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, who was convicted on bribery charges
- Former chairman of the influential City Council Zoning Committee (2009-2019)
- According to a federal court , Solis received sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of a farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and campaign contributions in exchange for City Council actions
- The FBI a meeting between Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and a hotel developer who had been directed to Madigan’s law firm by Solis
Other local government
- Indicted on three counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. Allegedly attempted to pay $4,000 in bribes to a relative of a village trustee in Oak Lawn in exchange for help getting red-light cameras devices installed in the suburb. Doherty doubled as a sales agent for red-light camera vendor SafeSpeed LLC, which had a contract with Oak Lawn about to expire.
- Indicted on one count of official misconduct in October. Allegedly made illegal payments of to a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm between January 2016 and March 2017.
- Retired in 2018 as one of the highest-paid officials in Illinois, earning nearly $250,000 in total compensation
- Federal investigators swept through the Cook County suburbs of McCook, Lyons, Summit and Crestwood in the
- Agents raided Tobolski’s office space as part of the investigation, taking Tobolski’s computer hard drives and documents related to at least two contractors at the McCook Athletic & Exposition Center also known as “The Max.” Investigators also asked for items related to Gold Rush Gaming, which has video gambling devices in the restaurant at the Max, .
- Tobolski submitted his resignation letter to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on March 6, 2020, stating he would leave office on March 31. He also resigned March 6 as mayor of suburban McCook, also effective on March 31.
- Tobolski family members dominate the small village of roughly 200 residents, which is mostly industrial land. In 2009, the Chicago Sun-Times 19 family members employed across McCook village government, the local library and park districts, and the Max.
- Tobolski Chief of Staff Patrick Doherty was “sales consultant” with red-light camera company SafeSpeed as a paid
- Federal agents visited Lyons village hall as well as Getty’s insurance company, Getty Insurance, in September
- Getty was elected in 2009. The same office was once held by his father, who in 1998 was convicted on 21 counts of mail fraud and money laundering. Since being elected, Chris Getty has hired family members to multiple village positions and increased his salary from $10,000 to $70,000 a year, according to a Better Government Association .
- Agents raided the Bloomingdale Township Road Department on Jan. 21, 2020, seeking Highway Commissioner Robert Czernek’s desk calendar, a “dirt log,” financial records, surveillance footage and more, according to a search warrant obtained by the Daily Herald
- At least two of the construction companies named in the search warrant have donated to Czernek’s political campaigns
- A federal grand jury in December subpoenaed Berrios and several of his former employees in the assessor’s office, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
- Former state representative and former chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party
- Subpoena demanded information regarding contributions to Berrios’ retirement party; documents related to his 31st Ward Democratic Organization, the Friends of Berrios campaign fund, and the Mexican American Political Action Committee; and items “related to any official action taken in exchange for a benefit.” Among those official actions are “assessor recommendations, certificates of correction, certificates of error, property valuations and re-reviews.”
- Investigative reporting from the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois found the Cook County property tax system headed by Berrios disproportionately harmed lower-income residents, due in part to the appeals process. One of the biggest beneficiaries of that system was Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
- From 2011 to 2016, Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, appealed property taxes for more than 4,200 parcels totaling more than $8.6 billion in assessed value, according to the Tribune. No other firm handled more value in commercial and industrial properties over that time.
- A July 30 subpoena to Schiller Park focused on the village’s with former Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski.
- When asked if Madigan recommended the village hire Zalewski, Mayor Nick Caiafa replied, “The Village was not asked or directed by any party to hire Z Consulting,” according to the Better Government Association.
- Briefly served as a Democratic state lawmaker when appointed to a House of Representatives vacancy in 2010; has held numerous Cook County jobs, including with Stroger Hospital, the Cook County Forest Preserve and former Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody
- Subpoenaed by federal authorities investigating SafeSpeed LLC, where O’Sullivan worked as a sales consultant pitching the red-light camera operator to local governments
- Separately subpoenaed and deposed as part of a class action lawsuit against the village of Crestwood regarding its red-light camera program, which the Illinois Policy Institute found to be among the most lucrative in the state
- Authorities subpoenaed the village of Crestwood in September for information related to $27,000 worth of expense reimbursements for Presta
- Mileage reimbursements show he frequently reported traveling to McCook, including for meetings with Lyons Mayor Chris Getty, as well as “Mr. Madigan.” Madigan denies he met with Presta.
- The village is facing a class action lawsuit regarding its use of red-light cameras, which are among the most lucrative in the state. Lawyers have sought information on whether Worth Township hired family members of Crestwood officials, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Federal agents contacted Ryan in September to ask about SafeSpeed, which village officials hired for red-light camera services
- Declined to say whether agents asked about the village’s ties with Alliant/Mesirow, where House Speaker Mike Madigan’s son, , works to secure local government insurance contracts
- An FBI spokesperson described the McCook and Lyons raids as “authorized law enforcement activity,” which the agency distinguished from “investigative activity” conducted in Summit.
- The Chicago Sun-Times reported federal authorities questioned Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez in September about red-light camera company SafeSpeed, among other topics.
Businesses, unions and other political figures
- In July, Coli pleaded guilty to federal charges in an extortion case involving $325,000 in cash he got from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, a large, state-backed film production facility on Chicago’s West Side
- Prominent ally of House Speaker Mike Madigan, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ex-Gov. Pat Quinn
- Indicted in April for allegedly bribing Chicago Ald. Ed Burke in exchange for assistance with city permitting. Pleaded not guilty.
- Charged with one count of federal program bribery, one count of making a false statement to the FBI, and two counts of interstate commerce to facilitate bribery
- Pritzker called for an investigation into a 2012 email from McClain in which McClain leveraged a state worker’s silence on a Champaign rape and ghost payrolling to seek leniency in the worker’s disciplinary hearing.
- Federal authorities in mid-May raided McClain’s home in Quincy, Illinois
- McClain’s phone calls with Madigan were recorded via an FBI wiretap as part of an investigation into ComEd’s lobbying activity, according to the Chicago Tribune
- More than any other political figure, McClain is known to have Madigan’s ear. Served as assistant minority leader under Madigan from 1981 to 1983 and had a decadeslong Springfield lobbying career.
- McClain “retired” from lobbying in 2016, after helping to pass an Exelon power plant bailout that raised rates on ComEd customers by between .
- After his retirement from lobbying, ComEd paid McClain $361,000 for “political consulting” services from 2017 to 2018. A spokesman for the utility refused to offer any details about the nature of those services to reporters from WBEZ and the Better Government Association.
- The Zalewski raid in May was part of a probe into “efforts to get work for Zalewski” at ComEd, as well as “interactions” between Zalewski, Madigan and McClain, according to the Better Government Association and WBEZ
- Zawleski’s 23rd Ward, where he was alderman for 20 years and still serves as the ward committeeman for the Cook County Democratic Party, overlaps with Madigan’s 22nd House district.
- Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed Zalewski’s daughter-in-law, Carrie Zalewski, to be chairwoman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates energy utilities such as ComEd
- When Zalewski retired a year before the end of his term, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed then-state Rep. Silvana Tabares to replace him in Chicago City Council. Tabares is a Madigan ally.
- Federal agents raided Quinn’s home in May
- Fired from Madigan’s political operation in 2018 following sexual harassment allegations
- Authorities are $10,000 in payments to Quinn, after he was fired, from accounts linked to five current or former lobbyists for ComEd, including McClain
- Brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn (Madigan’s ward)
- Was deposed as part of a lawsuit alleging Madigan recruited two “” to siphon Hispanic votes away from the speaker’s 2016 Democratic primary challenger, Jason Gonzales. In that deposition, Quinn admitted to attempting to recruit one of those candidates.
- Federal grand jury subpoena requested City Club of Chicago correspondence with between 10 and 20 individuals, including Madigan; raided Doherty’s office. A source told WBEZ that investigators were looking for evidence related to ComEd.
- ComEd paid Jay D. Doherty and Associates more than $3.1 million between 2011 and 2018, according to WBEZ
- Doherty resigned from his post as City Club president in December
- A source close to the ComEd probe told Crain’s Chicago Business that Doherty served as a conduit for ComEd money that flowed to more than 100 people, some of whom did little work
- Federal agents visited the sand and gravel company owned by Vondra, who is known as Illinois’ “asphalt king,” in September
- Companies connected to Vondra have made numerous campaign contributions to Sandoval, Tobolski and Getty
- The FBI raided Weiss’ office in November
- Runs a valet company that to ensure sex offenders weren’t working on CPS property, and is currently being by the Teamsters pension fund. Weiss is also involved in the sweepstakes machine industry.
- Son-in-law of Democratic boss, former Cook County Assessor and longtime video gaming lobbyist Joe Berrios; married to former state Rep. Toni Berrios; grandson of former Richard M. Daley ally Edward Murray
- Runs the Alliance of Illinois Taxpayers, a PAC that has raised largely from personal injury law firms and other figures with close ties to Madigan’s political organization
- Business associate of disgraced former cop John Adreani, who runs V.S.S. Inc., which paid state Rep. Luis Arroyo to lobby on behalf of gaming interests at Chicago City Hall
Cooperating with federal authorities
- President of Chicago’s largest movie studio, which was founded with more than $27 million in state grants
- Pissios was bankrupt and still held around $1 million in debt when federal authorities approached him to work as a mole to take down Teamsters boss John Coli. That debt has since , and he was granted a non-prosecution agreement.
- Tens of millions of dollars of state film tax credits have flowed to productions at Cinespace, including Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. The film tax credit program has .
- Federal agents questioned Tobolski chief of staff Patrick Doherty and Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez in September about Presidio Capital, a company run by Maani that has been involved in low-income housing projects in Cicero and Summit
- Maani is an investor in red-light camera company SafeSpeed, and is believed to be with federal authorities, according to the Chicago Sun-Times
- Has been served two federal grand jury subpoenas, most recently in October, related to ComEd’s government affairs activity. The SEC is reported authorities are interested in payments to ComEd consultants who received money for little actual work, but who curried favor with certain lawmakers. the utility giant. WBEZ has reported authorities are investigating whether , including those with ties to Madigan. The Chicago Tribune has
- CEO Anne Pramaggiore , as well as Senior Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs .
- Fifteen of the 23 lobbying firms that worked for Commonwealth Edison in Springfield in 2019 had direct ties to Madigan, a WBEZ investigation found
- In October, longtime Madigan advisor Michael Kasper informed the state that his lobbying firm its relationship with John Hooker, a decades-long lobbyist for ComEd. The same month, ComEd with a lobbying firm owned by 36th Ward Chicago Ald. Gilbert Villegas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader
- Authorities are investigating whether SafeSpeed landed local contracts to operate red-light cameras through , according to the Chicago Sun-Times
- The Illinois Policy Institute the following municipalities contracted with SafeSpeed to operate red-light cameras as of 2018: Summit, Matteson, Chicago Heights, Berwyn, Lakemoor, Hillside, Skokie, Westchester, Alsip, Oak Lawn, North Riverside, Country Club Hills, Crestwood, Tinley Park, Evergreen Park, Justice, Oakbrook Terrace and River Forest.
- Employs as a consultant Patrick Doherty, the chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski. As a consultant, Doherty receives a percentage of the revenue from tickets issued through SafeSpeed in municipalities where he lands the company contracts.
- Federal agents have been investigating the local governments of McCook, Lyons, Schiller Park and Summit. Each of those municipalities has with Alliant/Mesirow for various kinds of insurance, according to an Oct. 25 report from the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Andrew Madigan, son of House Speaker Mike Madigan, joined the company in 2008, according to the Tribune. He began working in business development for Mesirow’s insurance division in 2010, later becoming a senior vice president.
- A 2012 Chicago Tribune report, “” detailed instances where local government leaders with important issues in front of the Illinois House of Representatives also did business with Andrew Madigan or Mesirow.