Editorial: Link case emphasizes need for legislative ethics reform in Illinois
The news last week that state Sen. Terry Link of Indian Creek has been charged with federal tax evasion was far from surprising.
For quite some time, we've been no fan of the Lake County Democrat. The combination of his open legislative obsession with legalized gambling and his history of odd involvements with peculiar Springfield political maneuvers has been enough to lead any right-thinking skeptic to question his motives.
Add to that the media reports months ago that suggested Link was the unnamed senator who presumably wore a wire to record then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago in a federal bribery case. (Note: Link denied he was the mystery lawmaker and Arroyo denied guilt.)
Whatever the case, after that, it's not particularly surprising that there would be another shoe to drop.
Meanwhile, given the sordid history of politics in Illinois, who can be surprised any more when any state politician is indicted?
We're not just talking about the fabled histories that include, among others, politicians who at one time or another were our governors: Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Dan Walker and Otto Kerner.
In addition to Link and Arroyo, state Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park was indicted last August, and of course, a month ago, House Speaker Michael Madigan was identified by federal prosecutors as "Public Official A" in an explosive ComEd plea deal involving charges that the energy company had bribed its way to beneficial utility rates.
As of Friday night, Link had resigned from his position on the Legislative Ethics Commission but had not resigned from the Senate or from his party chairmanship in Lake County. Nor had he made any public comment. It seems to us that there is no way the Democrats can go into the November election with Link still at the helm in Lake County. His position certainly has become too tainted for that.
As to his Senate position, a number of colleagues are calling for his ouster. We're sympathetic to that call, but agree most closely with an assessment offered by Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills.
"He owes an immediate explanation to the people of the district," McSweeney said. "And if he doesn't provide a comment, he should resign."
Beyond all of that, whether Link resigns or twists in the wind, the message needs to be clear to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and every member of the General Assembly: The time for ethics reform is at hand.
A number of proposals have been made by both parties. Meaningful ones that change the way Illinois does business must be embraced and adopted.