Al Capone once said, “A good lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than 10 men with machine guns.” What Big Al didn’t know — and what a lot of bureaucrats do know — is that a bureaucrat with a typewriter can steal more than 100 lawyers if you make sure they can’t be punished. That’s why the federal government makes it a felony to lie in an official report (18 USC 1001). You don’t have to prove that the official was bribed to lie, just that he did lie. Once you have that, you can force the liar to turn state’s evidence against whoever bribed him. That’s why the federal government has such a law and Illinois does not. Contrary to conventional wisdom, not all government officials are corrupt. Some are certainly honest, but they’re unarmed. Without the weapons to use against corrupt officials, there’s just nothing they can do. Needless to say, criminals like laws that let them get away with their crimes. Another Chicago citizen, an alderman named Paddy Bauler, once said “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” I’d say that everyone in Illinois is ready by now.
From the Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue