We use ‘all tools’ to fight corruption

As Illinois Attorney General, I vowed to use all of the tools of the office to fight corruption — private and public — and I have lived up to that pledge. Not everyone knows what those tools are, so I think it is important to explain how and why this office is successful at fighting corruption on many fronts.

The attorney general’s office is mainly the state’s civil law firm, with its strongest powers in enforcing civil laws. Using those powers, I have recovered over $10 billion for the state and over $2.4 billion for homeowners. On the criminal side, in contrast, state laws empower county state’s attorneys to be our frontline criminal prosecutors for all crimes, including public corruption. Given that division of authority, I have focused on using civil laws to target corruption that defrauds the people and the state.

When it comes to corruption impacting people’s pocketbooks, the biggest issues I continue to pursue are the fraudulent acts by Wall Street that led to the foreclosure crisis, destroying the financial futures of too many Illinoisans. My work holding big banks accountable for their role in corrupting our economy has so far resulted in over $2.4 billion in relief for homeowners. I also targeted banks for the losses they caused the state’s pension systems, so far recovering over $100 million.

I have also used the office’s civil law powers to fight public corruption, fraud and abuse of government resources. In one of my earliest actions, I revoked the Emerald Casino license from Rosemont to ensure integrity in gaming. I rejected Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s effort to mortgage the Thompson Center, and stopped former governors George Ryan and Blagojevich from collecting public pensions. I am also fighting to prevent former Chicago police commander Jon Burge from receiving a public pension.

I spearheaded investigations of fraud in public contracts, successfully pursuing construction companies that obtained millions by evading requirements that minority- and women-owned businesses take part in government projects. My office has prosecuted Medicaid fraud, winning the largest verdict in the office’s history resulting in a $225 million recovery from a Medicaid HMO for illegally denying coverage to pregnant women. Working with the Department of Revenue, we have recovered over $85 million prosecuting sales tax fraud by gas station owners. I sued pharmaceutical companies for illegally inflating prescription drug prices, so far recovering over $133 million.

I have created new tools to hold government accountable. I established the first-ever Public Access Counselor to help the public obtain government information and, as part of this work, fought to make the Blagojevich administration disclose federal subpoenas to the Better Government Association. I led the effort to strengthen our sunshine laws and, under these laws, my office receives over 3,400 requests a year from Illinoisans seeking help to access government information and fight the state’s culture of secrecy.

While our criminal authority is limited, I have not shied away from using it. I initiated the state’s investigation into Gov. Blagojevich, handing over our findings at the U.S. attorney’s request. My office has successfully prosecuted a number of public officials, including a Democratic state representative and a Democratic state’s attorney.

Using all of the office’s authority, I have made fighting corruption, fraud and abuse a priority. In just the last several weeks, I recovered over $12 million from construction contractors for public contracting fraud, obtained a $100,000 penalty from a former state agency director for violating ethics laws, and ordered a county government to disclose settlement agreements involving over $600,000 in taxpayer funds.

I am proud of this work and the multitude of achievements my office has accomplished, and I look forward to many more successes on behalf of the people of Illinois.