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Crime Pays for Chicago Politicians

April 8, 2010
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

For Chicago politicians, committing a crime and doing time is apparently no problem.

Being an ex-pol and/or ex-con has become a sort of a steppingstone to a brand new career in broadcasting.

Back in 1996, then-Congressman and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dan Rostenkowski pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and was fined and sentenced to 17 months in prison.

Two years later a Fox affiliate, WFLD, put Rostenkowski on the air as a commentator. It was a sign of things to come.

James Laski was a Chicago city clerk but ended up in the slammer for 11 months, due to corruption charges. That was back in 2008.

In a month from now Laski will debut a new radio show, which will air weeknights on WGN, a prominent AM station in the Windy City.

Laski has never done radio broadcasting but was introduced to the idea when he did some substitute hosting on WGN. His claim to fame is knowledge of the same Chicago political tradition that’s part and parcel of the current White House.

“I sat down with the Daleys and the Blagojeviches and the Madigans,” Laski told the New York Times. “I’ve been there and done the good and bad. Here’s the thing: It’s time to move forward.”

If you want to hear former alderman of the 20th Ward Cliff Kelley spout off, you can tune into AM station WVON. Kelley also has a special understanding of Chicago-style politics, having been convicted in 1987 of taking bribes.

And the budding reality TV star Rod “Blago” Blagojevich has a two-hour Sunday show on WLS, another Chicago AM talk radio station.

You may remember that Blago once had another high profile gig as governor of Illinois but was impeached and has a federal corruption trial coming in June.

Even if some of those engaging in Windy City malfeasance end up on the wrong side of the criminal justice system, no worries.

A hot microphone is waiting for them on the shady side of Chi-town.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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