Monday, April 17, 2006

Scandal fatigue

A federal jury found former Gov. George Ryan, a Kankakee Republican, guilty of using public office for personal gain during his tenure as secretary of state and then as governor. Some think it’s a black eye for state government. Others think it’s a golden nugget of opportunity to kick Republicans while they’re down.

The political spin doesn’t do anything positive for voters when they enter the polls this November. “Neither party has any high ground in the upcoming election,” says House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, “and I don’t say that in a good way.”

Kent Redfield, political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said voters have “scandal fatigue” and are turned off by such mudslinging.

Yet, lo and behold, the Ryan verdict made conditions ripe for politicians to connect the dots between previous scandals and current candidates.

Right after the verdict was announced Monday afternoon, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a prepared statement. Although he didn’t mention state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka as his GOP opponent, he painted the existing Republican officeholders as continuing Ryan’s corrupt administration.

Topinka’s prepared statement avoided mentioning Blagojevich, but said it’s time to restore public trust. “We can begin that process by ending pay-to-play politics, eliminating no-bid contracts, restricting the influence of lobbyists, and increasing transparency in political campaigns and the business of government. Most importantly, we can lead by example in promoting a culture in Illinois that celebrates accountability, openness, and the truth.”

Let’s see if anyone can actually do that, for the voters’ sakes.

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