Is the geographic remoteness of Illinois' state capital relative to most of the state's population a major contributing factor to its historically high levels of political corruption?
Two recently published papers recently argued that the more isolated state capitals are -- and, internationally, capital cities in general -- the more associated they are with corruption.
As pointed out by the Washington Post's Wonkblog, Springfield, Illinois stands out as one of two U.S. capitols with both a "remote" location and a high level of corruption as measured by federal convictions for public corruption between the years of 1976 and 2002 in one of the papers, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
(Read the NBER paper in full. Scroll down for examples of Illinois officials convicted of corruption.)
But would things be better for Illinois if the capital were relocated -- likely much to the chagrin of certain downstate lawmakers -- to Chicago, beacon of all things politically ethical? Chicago magazine's Whet Moser took up the question in a recent blog post and noted that the state "has a lot of political and cultural structures underlying its Chicago-centric corruption" -- including weak campaign-finance laws.
Influential political blogger Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax last year lambasted the claims of a previously released version of the paper, arguing that Springfield is "hardly isolated" and that many local reporters -- both Springfield- and Chicago-based -- do excellent work digging into allegations of public corruption.
Another columnist -- Pat Gauen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- previously wrote that the study's claims were "at odds with my common sense."