When researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute of Government and Public Affairs set out to conduct one of the nation's most comprehensive studies on public corruption, surely they were not surprised to find the most prolific offender in their back yard.
And front yard, side yard, front porch, attic and under any other seat cushion you'd care to investigate in the Windy City.
The study – released just before Mardi Gras, perhaps explaining its low register on the news meter around here - combed through the records of 94 federal jurisdictions across the U.S. between 1976 and 2010 and, indeed, Chicago took the conviction sweepstakes.
Using U.S. Justice Department data, the Illinois report says there were 1,531 convictions for public corruption in the Chicago metro area.
There were just 545 in Louisiana during that period, so nanny-nanny-bo-bo.
Four of Illinois' past seven governors were convicted on corruption charges, along with 31 members of Chicago's city council.
Said Richard Simpson, the report's chief researcher: "The two worst crime zones in Illinois are the governor's mansion and the city council chambers in Chicago. No other state can match us."
Ah, did I hear a gauntlet thrown down? No other state?
Well, the devil is in the details, as they say.
In fact, when adjusted on a per capita basis – that pesky manipulation researchers love so much - New Orleans and Louisiana won the titles of the most corrupt city and state in the country – save one!
Thank heavens for Washington, D.C.
And pity us low down dogs.
But the good news is: The study – a massive undertaking – was greeted nationally more with a whimper than a bang. I mean, is it news that Chicago and New Orleans are corrupt?
All the same, the less said in the court of public opinion, the better, when one is trying to court new business and industry to the state.
Fortunately, the news came while most of us were out catching beads. So I thought you might want to know.
But for heaven's sake – don't tell anyone else.