Recently I came across an old Mike Royko column (he wrote for the Chicago Tribune until his death in 1997) called “A Tale of Two States." It was a humorous look at what then passed for corruption in Illinois vs. Wisconsin.
It was funny then, but it’s sad now. You’ll see why. One example he gave for Illinois was the fact that the incarceration rate for members of the Chicago City Council was about 10 percent, “higher… than in some of the more vicious neighborhoods." By contrast, in Wisconsin, the Secretary of State wanted the governor investigated for accepting a couple of drinks from lobbyists. Royko wrote “Sure, today it might… be a glass of beer or a glass of wine, who knows next week …a new tie? A box of chocolates?”
Fast forward. Our current governor is suspected of breaking campaign laws by colluding with wealthy interest groups, he packs the Wisconsin Supreme Court with disciples who opine that such collusion is legal, and all investigations into it must be stopped. Then the Republican-dominated legislature changes the law to make such collusion legal, then the legislature dissolves the watchdog Government Accountability Board just to make sure. Nevertheless, some leaks from the supposedly closed investigation get into the press, and the Republican administration goes ballistic, calling for resignations and possible prosecutions, not of those breaking the earlier law, but for the leakers. It’s like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar who throws a tantrum to deflect guilt, he blames his parent for inappropriately “spying” on him.
Corruption? Nobody was incarcerated. Welcome to the new Wisconsin. We’ve surpassed Illinois.