After Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested by federal agents Tuesday on charges he was trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat and trade public policy decisions for money, historians look at Illinois' long history of political corruption.
Blagojevich, who was elected on a platform of anti-corruption, replaced Republican George Ryan, who is now in prison for corruption crimes.
In this discussion, historian Michael Beschloss points out that many states and cities have problems with "pay to play" politics. However, the panel tends to agree that Chicago seems to have a particularly nasty history of corrupt politicians.
"The pay-to-play style of government is a long - has a long and not necessarily time-honored, but a very long history, not only in Chicago, but in Illinois." - Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times
"The Constitution originally did not have direct election of senators. They said the states should choose senators by their legislatures. The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, 'This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,' they felt you needed direct election. Interestingly, look what happened when you did not have direct election this week." - Michael Beschloss, presidential historian
1. What is corruption?
2. What is political corruption?
3. Who decides who will replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate now that he has been elected president?
1. What was the governor accused of doing? Why is it wrong to want money or benefits from making decisions?
2. Why do you think so many politicians, particularly in Chicago, have been caught committing crimes in office? Is it a quality about politicians? Or just certain bad people who become politicians?
3. Think about Laura Washington's example of the Illinois senate president who took money from state senators to win his seat? What is the difference between supporting an ally and "pay-to-play" or bribery?
4. What should Obama do about this situation? Do you think less of him because he is from Chicago?