New Illinois legislation aims to toughen penalties for public corruption

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House Bill 5878, introduced by Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) proposes giving Illinois the toughest public corruption penalties in the country, by imposing firm penalties for more than 20 offenses designed to hold politicians and government accountable to their constituents.

“Public corruption has eroded Illinois’ economy and morale for far too long,” Wehrli said. “Our citizens deserve honesty and integrity in their leaders and public employees. These penalty increases will impose more serious consequences for those looking to take advantage of our taxpayers and encourage good government for generations to come.” 

The numerous proposed penalty enhancements include: increasing the fine for bribery from $25,000 to $1 million; doubling the fine for receiving contributions on state property from $5,000 to $10,000; and increasing the maximum fines for engaging in prohibited political activities and improperly serving on state boards and commissions to $10,000 and $35,000 respectively.

Penalties would also increase for any legislator, public official or public employee who fraudulently obtains public moneys reserved for disadvantaged business enterprises, willingly or falsely filing financial disclosure statements, or failing to comply with ethics or sexual harassment training.

“The people of Illinois should be known for our rich farmland, culture, innovation, and economic success, not our debt and corruption,” Governor Rauner said. “This legislation is one great step forward in renewing our reputation by making those in power more accountable to the people they serve.” 

Writer Thomas J. Gradel and former Chicago alderman Dick Simpson estimated that corruption costs Illinois taxpayers about $500 million per year, in their 2015 book Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism and Criminality.

“Shady business as usual is no longer the standard for Illinois,” Rauner said. “Our administration has been working for over three years to clean up our system through ethics reforms. We have closed the revolving door of state employees leaving the Executive Branch for lobbying. We have tied loopholes in the gift ban, ended corrupt patronage hiring systems, required state employees to disclose more about their economic interests and used online resources to increase transparency.”

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