When it comes to corruption, folks, Chicago is hands-down (or handcuffs up?) a champion.
When it comes to corruption, folks, Chicago is hands-down (or handcuffs up?) a champion. Credit: niu niu / Unsplash

In a sign of our distraction, the feds indicted not one but two aldermen last Friday and hardly anyone around here batted an eye.

Let’s see . . .

Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson of the fabled Bridgeport-based 11th Ward got charged in a convoluted tax-evasion scheme.

The central accusation being that Thompson deducted from his federal income taxes about $171,000 in interest on a loan that he never, in fact, paid. The interest or the loan.

Thompson says he’s innocent of all charges. But I can’t wait to hear him explain the interest-deduction thing.

Alderman Thompson is, of course, the latest officeholder from the fabulously successful political clan known as the Daleys. In the aftermath of his indictment, newspaper writers and editors have struggled with what’s more significant—that Thompson is the nephew of one all-powerful mayor (Richard M.) or the grandson of another (Richard J.).

Tough call, journalists.

In other indictment news . . .

Former alderman Ricardo “Rick” Muñoz, of the 22nd Ward, continued his downward spiral, which is tough for old friends to watch. Last year, he was acquitted of misdemeanor charges of assaulting his wife. On Friday, he was indicted on charges of stealing from the progressives.

That is, Muñoz allegedly stole thousands from the accounts of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus—which he then chaired—and used the cash to buy, among other things, items from Lover’s Lane. A sex-toy operation.

I predict the Lover’s Lane connection will be the only thing most Chicagoans remember about the Thompson and Muñoz indictments, if they remember anything at all. 

When it comes to corruption in Chicago, there’s so much of it that many residents apparently decided it’s not so bad, so long as it’s directed at someone else. Sort of sums up the city’s attitude toward crime in general.

At the moment, there’s a journalistic debate as to which corruption charge is worse—Muñoz’s or Thompson’s. From what I gather, Muñoz wins—or loses, depending how you’re defining things. The logic runs like this . . .

Thompson’s alleged crime doesn’t involve his official aldermanic duties. So, you know . . . what the fuck?

Don’t say we’re not tolerant in Chicago.

At this point, I must make a confession . . .

For five years, Mick Dumke and I hosted First Tuesdays, a political talk show at the Hideout. (I now host the show with Maya Dukmasova.)

By my count, three of our guests have been indicted or investigated by federal authorities. (My apologies to any guest whose indictments and/or investigations I may have forgotten.)

Those indicted guests would be: the aforementioned Muñoz, former Alderman Danny Solis, and former Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno.

Here’s a fun-filled First Tuesdays fact—Muñoz and Solis were guests on the same night!

Yes, yes, in 2014. Around that time, Solis got in trouble with the feds—it’s never been revealed what he did. And so, he agreed to wear a wire to help investigators build a corruption case against Alderman Ed Burke.

Thanks to information gathered by Solis, Burke was indicted last year for trying to force a TIF recipient to hire his property tax appeal firm. So, you could argue that Solis has done more to clean up Chicago corruption than anyone since Eliot Ness. Not that anyone I know has made that argument.

As for Proco Joe, he spent a few days in the Cook County Jail around New Year’s after he got drunk, went out for a spin, and “crashed his vehicle into several others before hitting a tree in the 1200 block of North Astor Street,” as the Sun-Timesput it.

Eventually, Moreno was charged with “two counts of driving under the influence, one count of reckless driving and five counts of failing to report damage to an unattended vehicle.”

This occurred when he was out on bond for an outstanding 2019 felony case in which he allegedly “loaned his 2016 Audi A6 to a woman he had previously dated and then filed a false police report when she took the car, saying that the car was stolen.”

Rummana Hussain—Mick’s wife—loves to tease me and Mick for inviting such disreputable characters as Moreno to our First Tuesdays stage. She makes a good point. On the other hand, he was pretty entertaining.

As you can see, it’s easy to get jaded by Chicago corruption. Sometimes when I’m walking at night, I do my Alzheimer’s test by counting up—from wards one to 50—all the aldermen who’ve been indicted and/or convicted in my lifetime. Just to make sure my brain is still functioning after all these years. I will now demonstrate . . .

First Ward: Moreno and Fred Roti . . .

Second Ward: Fred Hubbard . . .

Third Ward: Tyrone Kenner . . .

Fifth Ward: Larry Bloom . . .

And so on . . .

For the record, no fourth-ward alderman has been indicted in my lifetime. Though Alderman Claude Holman, who ruled during the first Daley era, was known to routinely profess his abject loyalty to that mayor, saying things like: 

“God bless Mayor J. Daley. The greatest mayor in the history of the world.”

If they started indicting Chicagoans who said that, half the city would be busted.

I will close by mentioning that Thompson is also a lawyer, specializing in, among other things, tax increment financing and property tax appeals. “Thompson represents owners of commercial, industrial and residential in challenging their property tax assessments before the assessor’s office as well as the board of review of various counties,” his website reads.

Burke is also a property tax attorney. As is former house speaker Michael Madigan and senate president John Cullerton.

I think we can all agree it’s a conflict of interest for officials, who write property tax laws, to turn around and help other people pay less in property taxes.

But, like I always tell you, the grossest corruption is the stuff that’s perfectly legal.  v