Politicians Weigh In On Blagojevich Sentencing

By WEEK Producer

December 7, 2011 Updated Dec 8, 2011 at 10:47 AM CDT

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Rod Blagojevich is the fourth of the last eight Illinois Governors to be sentenced to prison for corruption charges.

He is the second consecutive Governor within five years. His predecessor George Ryan was convicted in 2006.

Politicians from every district in the state have weighed-in, supporting what they say is a "just sentence" while asking the public to keep faith in Illinois politics.

"Wednesday's sentence of 14 years for former Governor Blagojevich sends a strong message that the public and judges have had enough," said US States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

And so have the former Governor's former associates who still hold office. Statements were made throughout the day Wednesday by lawmakers across the state.

Republicans and Democrats alike, agree that now it's important to regain the trust of state voters. Governor Quinn has even proposed an ethics initiative to empower the public.

"We're all in this together. The people of Illinois need to have their votes strengthened," said Quinn. "One way to do it is to say that when you pass a petition for strong reforms, or ethics in government, you can put that on the ballot, that's a binding referendum. That's one that has a force of law."

Brad McMillan of Bradley University served on Governor Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission in 2008. He says the Illinois General Assembly ignored the commission's request to give state prosecutors more power in charging corruption against politicians. However, he blames the state's problems with ethics on a lack of enthusiasm from voters as well.

"After we sent Governor Ryan to prison and the charges were brought against Governor Blagojevich, only 22% of registered voters in the state of Illinois voted in the Gubernatorial primary," said McMillan. "We've got a lot of work to do."

It will take transparency, stronger ethics laws and the threat of prison time according Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.

"We don't want to be back here again, and the message that needs to go out to officials who would think about being corrupt is that the consequences, not just for the state, but for people who go corrupt themselves are severe," said Fitzgerald.

It's now taken four corrupt Governors and a total of 30 years of prison sentences to get Illinois legislators to agree they'll do anything in their power, besides abusing it, to keep this from happening again.

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