Corrupt Politics in Cook County Illinois, Some History

-By Warner Todd Huston

There is a saying about Chicago’s weather: if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes it’ll change. This, of course, is an allusion to the fact that the weather in Chicago is often unpredictable with every season but winter seeming all too short. The rains come, the winds blow, the snow falls and the chill descends with amazing rapidity. Naturally, this saying can be adapted to Cook County politics as well as the weather. If you don’t like a politician, wait a few weeks and they’ll likely be in jail.

Of course, it isn’t just Cook County, home of the City of Chicago, but it holds for the entire state. Illinois has had three governors sent to prison and a fourth, Rod Balgojevich, waiting to find out if he will become the next to take up residence behind bars. The “Land of Lincoln” has had over 80 legislators sent to prison since the 1970s. But Cook County deserves special recognition for its corruption and criminal politicians.*

Robert Lombardo wrote an excellent history of Cook County corruption where political corruption is front and center. Speaking of an early criminal politician, Lombardo paints a colorful picture of one Michael Cassius McDonald.

McDonald was also active in politics. In an effort to overcome the reform activities of Mayor Medill, McDonald organized Chicago’s saloon and gambling interests. “Mike McDonald’s Democrats,” as they were called, elected their own candidate, Harvey Colvin, as Mayor of Chicago in 1873. With Colvin in office, McDonald organized the first criminal syndicate in Chicago composed of both gamblers and compliant politicians. After suffering a temporary setback at the polls in 1876, when Chicago elected reform Mayor Monroe Heath, Mike McDonald’s Democrats elected Carter Harrison as Mayor in 1879. The alliance between the gambling interests and politicians in Chicago proved to be very powerful. Harrison served four consecutive terms as Mayor from 1879 to 1887.

This tradition of gangs supporting their own candidates for public office grew from McDonald’s 1800’s era criminal enterprises to the roaring 20s with groups such as the Irish “Hamburg Athletic Association” — little but an Irish street gang — that evolved into the first Mayor Daley’s political machine, an organization that his son Richie now controls.

The original Mayor Daley wasn’t known for a great intellect. During the 1968 Democratic Convention riots he assured the city on a TV news report that the police weren’t there to create disorder, they were there to “preserve disorder.” But one thing he was brilliant at and that was controlling the criminal element to his benefit. His son, Richard, learned from a master and became Mayor himself… even though it did take him five tries to pass the bar exam. Naturally, it’s likely he only finally passed because of a few greased palms.

With this wonderful history as a back drop, then, it is clear that we conservatives have a long road ahead of us to defeat Democratic Party corruption and criminality. But we shall strive to do so nonetheless.

It might surprise the casual political watcher, but there are good, conservative residents of Cook County and the surrounding area (such as DuPage and Lake County) that are doing their level best to alert the citizens to corruption and to fighting the same. There are great politicians such as Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, long-time, conservative journalists like Tom Roeser and Bruce DuMont, and groups such as the Institute for Truth in Accounting and the Illinois Policy Institute all working hard to bring reform to Cook County.

As we move forward here on Publius Forum in the new year we will continue to bring you news and views from all of these folks and many, many more all of whom are dedicated to improving life for the citizens of Cook County, the surrounding communities, as well as the whole of the state. We will be bringing you those dedicated to defeating the corruption of Cook County’s Democratic powermongers.

Please come back often as we continue to fill these pages. Let this mark as our own contribution to a better Cook County, a better Illinois.

*For further historical info, John Flood and Jim McGough have an excellent webpage titled Organized Crime and Political Corruption that has some incredibly detailed information on the criminal politicians of Cook County.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,,,,,, Human Events Magazine,, and the New Media Journal, among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events and is currently the co-host of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Conservatism” heard on BlogTalkRadio. Warner is also the editor of the Cook County Page for

He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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