CHICAGO

James Nowlan's New Book Says Illinois Citizens Are Partially To Blame For Culture Of Political Corruption

05/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Who is responsible for the culture of political corruption in Illinois? According to a new book by James Nowlan, you are--at least somewhat.

Nowlan, a former state lawmaker and senior fellow with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, says that Illinois citizens feed into a culture of shady ethics and unresolved problems by failing to demand better, according to his new book, "Illinois Politics: A Citizen's Guide."

"I don't think you change it by simply saying 'Let's elect good people and let them fix it,' " Nowlan said in a press release. "Citizens need to change their own cultural attitudes about right and wrong in government and what they expect of their elected officials."

At least 1,000 public officials and businessmen have been convicted of public corruption in Illinois since 1970. That includes 19 Cook County judges, at least 31 Chicago aldermen, two members of Congress and two governors -- plus another imprisoned for crimes unrelated to state government, the Associated Press reported last year.

Nowlan's book provides an in-depth, historical look at how government works in Illinois, giving voters the knowledge they need if they want to change things.

Nowlan told the Pantagraph he has his students at the University of Illinois take an ethics quiz every semester. He lays out the following scenario to his students: A relative straight out of college is arrested for driving under the influence, which threatens his new job. The relative's lawyer says he can pull some strings and get the charges dropped for an extra $1,000. Should he do it? Nearly two-thirds of the students say he should.

"The culture runs deeper than politics," Nowlan said. "Rare is the person who goes into politics planning to be corrupt. It happens because elected officials weren't thinking or saw an opportunity that looked good and wouldn't hurt anyone, but ended up being personal gain at public expense."

Nowlan's book looks at the "movers-and-shakers of Illinois politics," the Pantagraph reports. He said it is aimed towards college students, citizens running for office, good government affiliates and others interested in state government--especially those looking to change it.

"It's a tough, uphill struggle to achieve significant change in the game of Illinois politics," Nowlan said. "You have to be willing to hit your head against the door of government repeatedly in order to open it."

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