Chicago alderman Willie Cochran received news of his impending federal indictment on corruption charges while attending a City Council meeting. You can’t say he skips out on work. You can say that the government is taking an interest in making Cochran the thirtieth alderman convicted of government-related crime since 1972. According to reports, the former Chicago police officer dipped into a fund meant to benefit seniors while also extorting bribes from a developer and threatening a liquor store owner.
Longtime observers note the telltale small-timedness of Cochran’s corruption. Seriously, a liquor store? But it’s par for the course with these people. There’s also the entertaining detail that Cochran replaced Arenda Troutman as rep from the 20th Ward. That would be the Arenda Troutman who recently spent four years as a guest of the People after a rap for tax and mail fraud.
Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune column on the Cochran revelations turned to one of our scholars of Illinois politician malfeasance, UIP author Dick Simpson:
“They keep going to prison because they keep breaking the law and they don’t think they’ll ever get caught at it,” said former reform Ald. Dick Simpson, now a professor who studies political corruption at the University of Illinois at Chicago. With Thomas Gradel, Dick Simpson has written many studies of corruption and books, including Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality.
“They always think someone else will go but not them,” Simpson said of corrupt aldermen. “But let’s say only 1 in 10 are caught. Some never get caught. Many bribes take place between two parties.”
Simpson also noted that alderman, unlike mayors, lack the buffers that protect one from actually asking for the money. Big-timers know to send out cronies or stooges for that job but an alderman, even a Chicago alderman, has to take a self-starter attitude.