Battling Public Corruption and Unethical Conduct

The Attorney General should play a significant role in fighting corruption — both private and public — and Attorney General Lisa Madigan has done that using all of the tools of the office. 

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is one of the few state leaders who vigorously and consistently fought against former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s corruption and mismanagement. The corruption of his administration showed the need for sound, honest leadership in the State of Illinois. As Attorney General, Lisa Madigan repeatedly stood in opposition to Blagojevich and took steps to stop his corruption.  Throughout her tenure as Attorney General, she has worked to restore honesty and integrity to Illinois government.

Early in the Blagojevich administration, when accusations surfaced that the former Governor was attempting to trade jobs for campaign contributions, Attorney General Madigan initiated a State investigation, developing key evidence that she turned over to federal prosecutors at their request. When Blagojevich was arrested and indicted for attempting to sell then Barack Obama’s Senate seat, Lisa Madigan went to the Illinois Supreme Court to attempt to immediately remove him from control of state government until the matter was resolved or until the General Assembly had time to proceed with impeachment.  

The Attorney General has also taken a strong stand against the pay-to-play culture and the unethical practices that have often permeated Springfield. Through vigorous enforcement of the State’s Ethics Act, the Attorney General has prevented violations of the State’s “revolving door” prohibition, which prevents high-ranking state employees from going to work for government contractors, and has secured fines against former Blagojevich appointees who engaged in political activity and other ethical misconduct on State time. By increasing her office’s public integrity investigations and prosecutions, the Attorney General has worked to root out waste, fraud abuse, and corruption in government at all levels.

In 2009, Attorney General Lisa Madigan worked closely with the Executive Ethics Commission to draft, negotiate and pass reforms to strengthen enforcement of the State’s ethics laws and increase transparency in that process. These reforms included provisions to (1) significantly tighten the “revolving door” prohibition to prevent state employees from going to work for government contractors; (2) add transparency to the ethics enforcement process by requiring public disclosure of Inspector General reports when allegations of misconduct are founded; and (3) add transparency to the state grant-making process as well as make it easier to recover grant money in the event of fraud.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes government should serve the people and not the other way around. She has led the fight for open and accountable government by ensuring that people have access to public records and meetings.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan created the first-ever Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office to increase compliance with the State’s sunshine laws – the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act. 

Through the Public Access Counselor, the Attorney General’s office has trained and educated the public, the media and government officials on how to use the sunshine laws and on how to comply with them.  Her office has also fielded thousands of questions and complaints from the public, the press and government officials as well as mediated disputes to make public documents accessible.  Through this work, Attorney General Madigan saw firsthand how former Governor Blagojevich made secrecy, not sunshine, the default position of his administration, and she repeatedly fought to force him to disclose public information.

In 2009, Attorney General Lisa Madigan worked closely with open government advocates, including the Illinois Reform Commission and the Illinois Press Association to draft, negotiate and pass a groundbreaking new law making the Public Access Counselor position permanent and empowering the Public Access Counselor to make binding determinations on whether governments must disclose documents under FOIA or conduct business in public under the Open Meetings Act. The Chicago Sun Times called the new laws “a legal crowbar that average citizens and journalists can use to pry info out of local officials.”

The new public access law significantly strengthens FOIA to make it easier for the public to obtain public records by shortening the time that governments have to respond to a FOIA request, narrowing and clarifying the exemptions and limiting the copying charges. 

Additionally, the new law allows courts to impose significant penalties on governments that willfully violate the law and requires courts to award attorneys’ fees to plaintiffs who successfully sue to obtain a public record. 

The Attorney General believes that government records should be open to the public without a struggle. These revisions to Illinois’ sunshine laws will allow ordinary citizens to hold their government officials accountable for their actions.

The efforts of the Attorney General have created a higher standard of accountability and transparency for governments to follow when conducting business with the citizens of Illinois.

Lisa Madigan continues to make government more accountable to the people and fight to end the cycle of corruption in Springfield.

Michelle Young