Home > Public Service, The Outsiders > The Disturbingly Close Ties Between Chicago Gangs and Chicago Politicians

The Disturbingly Close Ties Between Chicago Gangs and Chicago Politicians

When Barack Obama was elected president, most of the intelligent electorate knew exactly what to expect.  You may take the politician out of Chicago, but you can never take the Chicago out of the politician.

As expected, Obama has rewarded the country with corruption, sweetheart deals, arbitrary policies, and a spoils system on steroids.  Despite the frantic efforts of most mainstream news sources to avoid coping with this reality, the roots of the Obama presidency are solidly set in the seedy underworld of Chicago.

So when Chicago Magazine’s David Bernstein and Noah Isackson published their expose “Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance,” I probably should not have been surprised at the length, depth, and breadth of corruption and crime in the highest reaches and lowliest bureaus of Chicago’s political machine.

But I was.

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article, as I cannot hope to encapsulate the perverse nature of this institutionalized corruption in a single quote.  However, the authors have helpfully summarized their findings, so hopefully reading this will induce you to seek more.

• While they typically deny it, many public officials—mostly, but not limited to, aldermen, state legislators, and elected judges—routinely seek political support from influential street gangs. Meetings like the ones Baskin organized, for instance, are hardly an anomaly. Gangs can provide a decisive advantage at election time by performing the kinds of chores patronage armies once did.

• In some cases, the partnerships extend beyond the elections in troubling—and possibly criminal—ways, greased by the steady and largely secret flow of money from gang leaders to certain politicians and vice versa. The gangs funnel their largess through opaque businesses, or front companies, and through under-the-table payments. In turn, grateful politicians use their payrolls or campaign funds to hire gang members, pull strings for them to get jobs or contracts, or offer other favors (see “Gangs and Politicians: Prisoner Shuffle”).

• Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.

The paradox is that Chicago’s struggle to combat street gangs is being undermined by its own elected officials. And the alliances between lawmakers and lawbreakers raise a troubling question: Who actually rules the neighborhoods—our public servants or the gangs?

The extent of the corruption is shocking, and the brazen attitude with which politicians ally themselves with [more] common criminals is unbelievable.  If you want any indication of the source of the corruption currently in the White House, look no further than here.

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