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Sen. Durbin claims local transportation in Chicago should be ‘national priority’

 Chicago Marina in simpler times. ((Photo: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Div.; LOC dates collection to 1946.)Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) crowed about shuttling $256 million in federal funds to Chicago for local transportation projects.  Durbin’s remarks were included in an official statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office about a $1 billion “Rehabilitation of the City’s Busiest Train Line.”

Durbin said, “The federal government is helping CTA make desperately needed improvements to the Red Line because time and again we've argued that mass transit in Chicago should be a national priority.”

The release from the Democrat mayor’s office praises the funding for “creating the opportunity for Chicagoans to move around the city and get to and from work with ease.”

Using federal dollars for a local project is nothing new to politicos. Durbin has been in Washington for almost three decades, first serving in the U.S. House and moving to more fertile ground in the U.S. Senate in 1997.

The Cato Institute blog called Durbin out in 2010 during what might be called ‘The Earmark Wars’ when he claimed his earmarks were done with “full disclosure.”

Who knew Durbin had such a gift for comedy? In the blog post, Cato explains the senator’s confusion over the definition of the word transparency.

Washington Watch has a list of Durbin’s known requested earmarks for 2010—obviously the U.S. taxpayer has been very generous to Illinois. Recipients of requested federal funds included a horticulture project at the Chicago Botanic Garden ($300,000) and a local lake ($5,000,000). Most of the projects involved construction, a boon to big labor unions.

WW cautioned about the data because it had to be collected from various websites—so much for “full disclosure.”

In February, a former “Windy City” alderman told CBS Chicago the city is the “most corrupt” in the country—no surprise to Americans who already believed that to be the case. The alderman, Dick Simpson, is now a political science professor and activist, said CBS. “In the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago, there have been a total of 1,531 public corruption convictions since 1976, Simpson found.”

CBS reported:

“Since the 1970s, four of Illinois’ seven governors have been convicted (Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich). In addition, dozens of Chicago alderman and other city and county public officials have been found guilty, Simpson said.”

How much do billions in federal dollars contribute to the city’s corruption via “machine politics”? More than half the state's recent governors probably could shed some light on that question.

Related at The US Report

Wall Street Journal analysis on Chicago style politics

(Filed by Kay B. Day/April 30, 2012)

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