Corruption in Cook County:
Anti-Corruption Report Number 3
February 18, 2010
Thomas J. Gradel
Alexandra Kathryn Curatolo
University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Political Science
Better Government Association
Cook County government has been a dark pool of political corruption for more than 140 years. The first
public corruption scandal occurred in 1869 when a number of Cook County Commissioners accepted bribes to
approve a fraudulent contract to paint city hall.1
During the last several decades, Cook County has been a center of corruption with scandals emerging in
many different units of county government. By chronicling the cases we hope to call attention to the need for
meaningful reform. When county government such as Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office or Assessor James
Houlihan’s office do undertake meaningful reform, others sink back into the mire.
Public or political corruption occurs when government officials use their public office for private gain or
benefit. In Cook County government this includes outright bribes as well as campaign contributions made by
individuals or corporations in exchange for jobs, inflated contracts or political favors. It includes ghost payroll jobs
in which individuals get a paycheck but do no work. With an annual budget of more than $3 billion—dishonest
public servants find many different ways to profit illegally.
The purpose of this report is to summarize the many different forms of corruption and to recommend basic
reforms that need to be enacted to clean up Cook County government.
This report provides a roster of nearly 150 convicted Cook County politicians and government officials
along with descriptions of each of their illegal schemes. It includes private citizens and businessmen who were