10.01.2008 0

Blase-ted Out of Office

  • On: 10/21/2008 22:50:34
  • In: Government Transparency

  • ALG News was shocked—shocked—to learn that a mayor of a small Chicago suburb, after nearly 50 years in office, was indicted by federal prosecutors for taking bribes for at least 17 years:

    “After nearly 50 years in office, the mayor of a tiny northwest Chicago suburb has resigned amid federal corruption charges for accepting bribes throughout nearly half of his lengthy tenure.

    “Elected mayor of Niles Illinois in 1961, Nicholas Blase was arrested at his home in 2006 and accused of using his office to steer local business owners to purchase insurance through an agency that paid him nearly half a million dollars in kickbacks.

    “Federal authorities say the veteran politician illegally abused his public office for at least 17 years but probably more. The owner of the insurance agency that bribed the mayor was also criminally charged in the scheme, which authorities say robbed numerous local businesses in the municipality of about 30,000 located 15 miles north of downtown Chicago.

    “With his federal corruption trial originally scheduled for early September, the 80-year-old mayor resigned abruptly this week. In a statement posted on the official Niles government web site, Blase said he is tired and is retiring early so other mayoral candidates can start campaigning without wondering if he’s running again. He added that it’s been an honor to serve the community and its employees.”

    Mr. Blase is a poster-child for term limits for politicians, and others of his ilk—Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) that means you!—need to take note. And citizens nationwide need to pay attention: The longer a politician stays in office, the more opportunities that will emerge for the official to be bought and paid for.

    The American system was designed for citizen legislators and servants, not career politicians, and yet in city after city, county after county, and state after state that’s almost always who one will find in office.

    Based on the report, it appears that Mr. Blase was able to work out a plea bargain to avoid prosecution. What was the trade? Apparently, if he resigned from office, he wouldn’t go to jail:

    “The farewell letter fails to mention the pending corruption trial which was mysteriously cancelled this week by federal prosecutors, perhaps as the parties work out a plea bargain that probably includes the resignation. Blase has pleaded not guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion charges.”

    That may explain why Sen. Stevens is hanging tough, having just won his party’s nomination for re-election with over 60 percent of the vote. Perhaps he is hoping to use his office as a bargaining chip so that he won’t spend his final years in a federal penitentiary.

    Federal prosecutors really ought to not take the bait. If they keep on making plea deals of this nature, it will do nothing to deter corruption in office. It will only encourage career politicians on the take to continue to do so, because if they get caught all they have to do is resign to get off scott-free.

    Instead, if corrupt officials face stiff penalties—including real jail time—for being on the take, perhaps the American people will not be faced with yet more “shocking” tales of public corruption.


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