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State Week: Sandoval Pleads Guilty, Pritzker Describes 'Scourge' Of Corruption In State Of The State

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Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker focused on corruption in his State of the State address this week, a day after former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes for doing his job.

“I am deeply ashamed of my actions,” Sandoval told reporters after entering his plea. “I take full responsibility. And I apologize to the people of Illinois, and most importantly the constituents that I’ve served over the last 17 years.”

That’s a far cry from a few years earlier, when he was asking to get paid by someone with ties to a red-light camera company, as captured by a federal government wiretap: “You know I’ll go balls to the walls for anything you ask me. ... It’s hard for me to swallow how [people] make so much off of you. Right? And I gotta do the work.”

Pritzker responds in State of the State address

“We must root out the purveyors of greed and corruption — in both parties — whose presence infects the bloodstream of government,” Pritzker told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“It’s no longer enough to sit idle while under-the-table deals, extortion or bribery persist,” he said. “Protecting that culture — or tolerating it — is no longer acceptable. We must take urgent action to restore the public’s trust in our government. That’s why we need to pass real, lasting ethics reform this legislative session.”

A day later, a bipartisan commission held its third meeting to discuss what laws might be changed in response to the ongoing scandals. But questions remain about why Sandoval was not only allowed to operate so brazenly for so long, but why he was given positions of power and authority, like the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee, and why he was the Senate Democrats’ point person on negotiating last year’s $45-billion infrastructure plan.

Sean Crawford hosts with regular panelists Charlie Wheeler and Brian Mackey, and guest Amanda Vinicky of Chicago Tonight, which airs on PBS station WTTW.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
The former director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III, a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.
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