CGF: Dr. Dick Simpson and Tom Gradel to speak on “Corrupt Illinois”


We are pleased to invite Dr. Dick Simpson, the Department Head at UIC Political Science and Thomas J. Gradel, an independent political media consultant for several Chicago Aldermen, for an open-to-public roundtable discussion to discuss their new book called “Corrupt Illinois.”

Members: Complimentary
Non-Members: $10

Not a member? Become one here to have unlimited complimentary access to this event and all other Chicago Global Family events for one year!


If you have difficulties registering for this event, please CONTACT Rana Yurtsever, Program Director for Niagara’s Center for Public and Global Affairs, via email at [email protected] or phone 312-240-0707 Ext. 107.

This event is co-sponsored by: Common Cause

Wednesday, June 17th.
11:30am- 1:00pm
Lunch will be served

Niagara Foundation-Chicago office
205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

Dr. Dick Simpson has uniquely combined a distinguished academic career with public service in government. He has published widely, been an outstanding teacher, and affected public policy. He began his academic career at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1967 where he has taught for 46 years. At UIC he received the highest awards given for teaching including the UIC Silver Circle Award (twice), CETL Teaching Recognition Award, the UIC award for Excellence in Teaching, and the American Political Science Association (APSA) and Pi Sigma Alpha National Award for Outstanding Teaching in Political Science. He is a former Department Head from 2006-2012, a previous Director of the department’s Preparing Future Faculty program and currently Professor of the Political Science at UIC. He has served on the Teaching and Learning Committee of APSA and as co-chair of the Founders of the Distinguished Teaching Award for the APSA.

He has been the principal researcher on important studies which have led to reform in many units of government in Cook County, Illinois.

Dick Simpson has published numerous studies of elections, urban politics, voting patterns of elected officials, local government, public policy, and government budgeting. He is author or co-author of a number of books on political action, ethics, and politics, including Rogues, Rebels and Rubber Stamps (2001), Winning Elections (1996), Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States (2011), The City, Revisited (2011), Twenty-First Century Chicago (2012), African Development and Democracy (2012), and Teaching Civic Engagement (2013).

Thomas J. Gradel is a freelance writer, author and researcher specializing in politics, government, labor unions and non-governmental agencies. For more than 25 years he worked as an independent political media consultant for several Chicago Aldermen and numerous candidates for City Council, the Illinois State Legislature and Congress. Tom Gradel has worked on opposition research for a winning candidate for Governor and handled numerous research projects for SEIU, the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, the Steelworkers and other labor unions. He has also worked with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, The Illinois Fair Trade Campaign, the Death Penalty Moratorium Campaign and the Viet Nam Veterans Against the War. Tom is a member of the National Writers Union.

“Corrupt Illinois”
Public funds spent on jets and horses. Shoeboxes stuffed with embezzled cash. Ghost payrolls and incarcerated ex-governors. Illinois’ culture of “Where’s mine?” and the public apathy it engenders has made our state and local politics a disgrace.
Corrupt Illinois lays out a blueprint to transform our politics from a pay-to-play–driven marketplace into what it should be: an instrument of public good.

Read more here.

By Brianna Deigan, Communications Intern, Summer 2015

On Wednesday, June 17th, Niagara Foundation was pleased to host a Chicago & Global Family roundtable discussion, where Dr. Dick Simpson and Thomas J. Gradel, the esteemed authors of Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality, shed light on the political fraudulency characteristic of the Chicagoland area. The two colleagues vary in their professional background, providing a diverse and insightful view on such a controversial topic. Dr. Dick Simpson, currently a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has a wide variety of experiences, including his former positions as a Chicago Alderman, congressional candidate, and author. On the other hand, Thomas J. Gradels also contributes with his extensive knowledge of politics as a former media consultant and current freelance writer and political researcher.

Time and time again throughout history, citizens of Illinois have witnessed corruption not only in the Chicago area but also its more than 60 surrounding suburbs that have been found guilty. Beginning as early as 1856, to the most recent face of Illinois corruption, Rob Blagojevich, the immoral taking advantage of political authority is undoubtedly a recurring theme. Simpson and Gradel explain it is due to this pattern, that Chicago is ranked as the most corrupt city in the country, and Illinois as the the third most corrupt state. It is found in all levels of public officials: out of the last nine state governors, four have gone to jail, and since 1973, thirty three Chicago aldermen have also been sent to jail for corruption. The root cause of all this crooked political environment? Decades of political machines.

Simpson and Gradel emphasize that as long as machine politics survives in Chicago, it is inevitable the corruption will as well. The future of Illinois government lies in our hands as citizens. Although the task is intimidating, the two remain confident, explaining a “culture created over a history, can be changed over a history.” To bring about an end to these notorious political machines, they propose an 8-step program to be implemented on all levels of politics. This program outlines key demands, such as the increase of transparency and accountability in public offices, implementation of inspector general in the suburbs, initiation of civic engagement programs in schools, adoption of public funding for campaigns, selection of better public officials, and modification of how political districts are remapped.

After the discussion, members of the audience brought up intriguing questions regarding what characteristics we should require from our elected officials, techniques to promote public engagement, and current political representatives we can look to for examples of good ethical leadership. The Niagara Foundation would like to thank Dr. Dick Simpson and Thomas J. Gradel for taking the time to share with us their insight on the corruption that is unfortunately so prevalent in our state’s history, and providing us with a pathway to help make a difference ourselves.

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.