By: Mark Glennon*

The latest, goofy “fact-check” is out from the Better Government Association through its partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times and PolitiFact.

“Fact-check: Bruce Rauner paints opponents with one brush: ‘They’re corrupt.'” That’s the headline for the story in the Sun-Times. The BGA’s Kiannah Sepeda-Miller, who authored the story, says Rauner was wrong to say in a radio interview that Michael Madigan, Rahm Emanuel and J.B. Pritzker are “corrupt.” The BGA’s own headline made the criticism precisely: “Bruce Rauner Corrupts the Word ‘Corrupt.'”

But wait! Contrary to the Sun-Times headline that it’s a “fact-check,” it’s not and, if you read closely, it says it’s not. As Sepeda-Miller explains, “the fact that there are multiple ways to interpret the word means we won’t be putting his accusations to the Truth-O-Meter.” Instead, the article is a garbled, self-contradictory essay clearly meant to defend Rauner’s targets from his corruption charge.

She parses through different, recognized meanings of “corruption. It can mean illegality but also, she correctly says, just opinion (her word) that a public official has morally or ethically compromised his position.

Yet it’s deceptive, as Miller-Sepeda somehow sees things, for Rauner to use the word “corrupt.” She cites an academic who says, “The word ‘corruption’ for Rauner is a beautiful, deceptive word because it has multiple meanings.”

Really? It’s deceptive to say “corrupt”? There have to be ten thousand different people every day in Illinois who call the state’s political establishment corrupt, especially the Cook County Democrats Rauner was referring to. And they’re right to say that — using the widely accepted meaning of the term that includes something less than illegality.

The BGA itself has made a huge deal out of what it has called “systemic corruption,” and it wasn’t referring just to illegality. It was referring to myriad forms of legal corruption allowed to flourish in Illinois, particularly in Chicago. It has railed against the “culture of corruption.” Are those not opinions — sound opinions? Aren’t they justified by, among countless examples, Madigan’s property tax law practice, Rahm’s pay-to-play and Pritzker’s abuse of the property tax system by removing toilets to make a property “uninhabitable”?

And if there is systemic, cultural, legal corruption, isn’t it reasonable to say that anybody who is a major gear in the Chicago Machine is corrupt, like the three Rauner said are corrupt? Aren’t they contributing to and benefiting from the systemic culture of corruption that is the Machine, while doing nothing about it? Sepeda-Miller apparently thinks that would be corrupting the word “corrupt.”

Her article does point out one way Rauner indeed went too far. He said Erika Harold, candidate for Attorney General, would prosecute Madigan if elected. Rauner would offer no specifics. He shouldn’t have said that, but it’s just not a big deal. It’s safe to assume Harold would make every effort to find something to charge Madigan with, and it’s entirely possible she told Rauner she intends to, and for what, in private.

Sorry, BGA, but it’s not deceptive to use the word “corrupt” as Rauner did. On the contrary, he used an appropriately blunt term to reflect a reasonable opinion about leading figures in the systemic culture of corruption you say exists. To claim he corrupted the term is to be guilty of that very charge, and putting that claim under a “fact-check” headline is indefensible.

Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.



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Mike xyz
1 year ago

“The true corruption in Illinois is the use of power for fortune under the law.”

– John Kass at 37:49 in “Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics” by Illinois Policy, available for free on YouTube.

1 year ago

I actually think BGA and the Sun-Times did Rauner a favor by posting those headlines. Most people just saw the word corrupt and knew instinctively it was Madigan and Pritzker. The middle of the road voters who will pick our governor did not read either article. And if they did they still got the facts about the weird way Illinois runs its government.

robert neville
1 year ago

I was with congressional candidate Joan Lasonde when she and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky sat down with the Sun-Times “editorial board” in 2016. The next hour was a mixture of horror, hilarity (far too little) and disgust. The Sun-Times “editorial board” have to be the dumbest, basest, most partisan, blatantly biased, out of touch, ignorant, illogical, smug, straight-up Democrat activists masquerading as “Journalists” I’ve ever encountered. Whether they’re the reason print media is dead or its brain eating zombie corpse, I still can’t decide. I just vividly remember thinking how much I needed a long hot shower after we left.

1 year ago

Politifact is hardly an unbiased source, since it is associated with the Annenberg Foundation and operates out of the liberal Univ of Penn. Politifact does on get it right, but most of the time their fact checking will be biased against conservatives and for liberals. If the Annenbergs (former Republicans) were still alive, they would probably dissolve the foundation, which has inappropriately become part of the “progressive” movement. Anyone who has lived in Illinois for a long time (44 years for me), knows that Madigan runs a chicago-style political machine that doles out patronage jobs (through the Secretary of State… Read more »

1 year ago

It take a sharp eyed, keen witted, Mark Glennon to actually FACT CHECK a purported BGA FactCheck that cried out for a true fact check. And Mark nailed it. Is BGA being co-opted by its Sun-Times connection ? Poor Rauner, he inherits a bankrupt Illinois and his reform administration is handcuffed from the start by the Madigan combine in the General Assembly and, suddenly, come election time, fat cat “Pritzker ” the latest Madigan frontman, accuses the Governor of being ineffective. I guess the official Dem definition of being “effective” means selling out the reform principles on which one has… Read more »