Saturday, December 13, 2008

Which state is more corrupt:

Illinois or Louisiana?

The stylistic differences between Illinois and Louisiana can be described as David Mamet vs. Walker Percy. The corruption culture in Illinois tends to be mingy, pedestrian, shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. When former House speaker Dan Rostenkowski was caught filching postage stamps from the House post office, he pleaded guilty and apologized.

Louisiana's culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. Earl Long once said that Louisiana voters "don't want good government, they want good entertainment." He spent part of his last term in a mental hospital, where his wife had him committed after he took up with the stripper Blaze Starr. When Sen. Allen Ellender died in office in 1972, Governor Edwards didn't try to auction off his seat. He appointed his wife, Elaine, possibly to get her out of town. When Edwards ran for governor again in 1983, he said of the incumbent, "If we don't get Dave Treen out of office, there won't be anything left to steal." Raised among figures like these, Louisianans tend to accept corruption as inevitable and to forgive it easily.

The article suggests that, due to the scandal surrounding Governor Rod Blagojevich, who among other things attempted to auction president-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, Illinois might outlast Louisiana in what the author calls "the NCAA finals of American political corruption."

Let's see... Chicago versus New Orleans. The Daleys versus the Longs. Rep. Dennis "Prairie Parkway" Hastert versus Rep. William "Cold Hard Cash" Jefferson. It's a tough call, but I'm going to say that Louisiana wins, albeit in double overtime. Perhaps I'm a homer - I do live two hours away from the state, after all - but when it comes to corruption, I think Louisiana outdoes Illinois. The Pelican State still leads the nation in the number of federal corruption convictions per capita, after all, and, as the article notes, Louisiana's culture of crookedness has historically been much more, eh, artistic than that of Illinois. And corruption, like anything else, is an art form: if you're going to do, it, do it right.

Illinois does it. But Louisiana does it right!

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