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Shock and gall in Illinois

The Blagojevich case signals the need for vigilance by citizens, too, to eye the corrupt.

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"We're not going to end corruption in Illinois by arrests and indictments alone," said prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald after laying out charges Tuesday against Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He's right – and not only for one state. Americans can't leave it to law officers to smoke out corruption in high places. Democracy needs vigilance by everyone to keep government free of taint from money politics.

Illinois is hardly alone in its high level of graft, even though it has had four governors in trouble with the law in the past 35 years and Chicago still carries a reputation for sleazy politics.

In the past decade, former governors of Alabama, Connecticut, and Louisiana have been found guilty of money crimes. A few Massachusetts politicians now face corruption charges.

Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens was found guilty of lying about gifts from a political supporter. New York Rep. Charles Rangel, head of the House tax panel, is being probed on allegations of seeking money for political favors and of dodging taxes on his homes. At least a dozen recent representatives in the House have been nailed for corruption.

In New Orleans Saturday, voters took matters into their own hands. US Congressman William Jefferson – who has been indicted on several corruption counts – lost his reelection bid to a Republican in a heavily Democratic district.


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