Thursday, April 20, 2006

The root of corruption

Southern Illinois University's Mike Lawrence weighs in this morning with the best perspective yet on the George Ryan verdict. Mike is a friend and someone who I consulted before deciding to leave journalism for government — a career path he had already trodden. Nobody in Illinois has a better perspective of how corruption percolates. Very few people in Illinois are more universally respected among journalists and politicos. Two points I liked best. The first touches on the point I made earlier about current Governor Rod Blagojevich and his two top fundraisers, Chris Kelly and Tony Rezko.

No law will assure that a governor or secretary of state will set the right tone and choose senior people who are not only incorruptible but also devoted to keeping an administration clean, even confronting the boss if necessary.

And an admonition for the media to work harder to sort out fact and fiction on matters of public integrity and not settle for he said, she said stories that give moral equivalence to massive corruption on one hand and an inconsequential matter on the other.

Fighting corruption is no simple matter. The media must be even more vigilant. Television, in particular, must afford us far more opportunities to assess candidates beyond the sound bites and 30-second commercials. Most important, we as citizens must give integrity a higher priority than getting our way on an issue and having our garbage collected on time.

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