Will Senate Seat Scandal Bury All Chicago Politicians?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 10, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: I spoke to the U.S. attorney's office on Tuesday. They shared with me that I am not, I am not a target of this investigation. And that I am not accused of any misconduct.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Now that was more of Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. fervently denying that he ever tried to buy Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Joining us now is congressional correspondent for the Chicago Trib, Jill Zuckman, and former Chicago City alderman and professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dick Simpson.

Video: Watch Sean & Alan's interview

All right, Jill, we're going to start with you, and I want to ask you both — I want to talk about this Chicago way. America is now learning about pay to play, that political patronage, that if you raise enough money, you might be able to buy yourself a U.S. Senate seat.

David Axelrod literally once defended this political patronage in past defending one of his clients. America watched Reverend Wright. We're told for political reasons Barack Obama went for that church. Started his political career in the home of unrepentant terrorists. You know, if you put all — or you can be friends with Louis Farrakhan and Father Pfleger.

What is this Chicago way? Because I don't get it, and I don't think a lot of Americans, Jill, get it?

JILL ZUCKMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, look, do you remember Tammany Hall? I think Chicago had a very rich and storied history of political graft, and that was a long time ago, but it hasn't completely shaken it off, and in this case, it's not just Chicago, it's Chicago and it's Springfield.

HANNITY: Let me go through this with you. It's another — it's acceptable, Bill Ayers is just an accepted professor in the neighborhood. Louis Farrakhan is viewed as somebody that has political influence, that's OK. The corrupt land deal with Tony Rezko, that's OK.

This doesn't raise eyebrows. It's — is it just somebody like Sean Hannity sitting on the outside saying this doesn't look right?

ZUCKMAN: Look, I — can't speak to every single one of those things. I can tell you people in Illinois are truly shocked that this is beyond the pale of what they would expect.


ZUCKMAN: ... of regular urban Chicago corruption. This is just a bridge too far for almost everybody in the state.

HANNITY: All right. Dick Simpson, I — you know, the questions that I raised during the campaign leading up to the election and the questions we have now, I think there are a lot of unanswered questions that will come out in the days to come here.

When people refer to the Chicago way, is it out of the ordinary in your mind?

DICK SIMPSON, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: Well, there are two parts to what you're suggesting. First of all, yes, we are the most — we're the capital of corruption in the United States. We're worse than even Louisiana and New Jersey.

We've had a thousand public officials and businessmen convicted of corruption and — since 1971. Thirty of our aldermen have gone to jail and so forth, four governors.

HANNITY: Unbelievable.

SIMPSON: So we're quite corrupt and for the reasons Jill gives we're part of a machine culture and a machine politics. That's different from Barack Obama. Barack Obama started as a reformer, and he fought the machine.

Yes, he made alliance with people (INAUDIBLE).

HANNITY: He didn't fight the machine.


ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: And by the way, Dick, didn't also Blagojevich.

SIMPSON: I'm glad you know from New York how things work in Chicago. Why don't you ask Chicagoans?

HANNITY: Wait a minute.


HANNITY: If you start your career in the home of a terrorist? That's not.

COLMES: I think we kind of litigated that during the election.

HANNITY: That's not bucking the machine.

COLMES: And Barack Obama won. But, Dick, let me ask you about this. What is it about — I mean, obviously, it hurts the image of Chicago. And does it go back, as Jill said.

SIMPSON: Absolutely.

COLMES: ... you know, back to days of yore? Is it prevalent now and is it changing?

SIMPSON: Well, first of all, it does go back to days of yore. Our first conviction for public corruption was in 1869 of three county commissioners. It has been a constant, but it's been both Democrats and Republicans.

The (INAUDIBLE) Republican machine is equally rapacious as the Democratic machine in Chicago. The last governor to go to jail was a Republican. We have equal opportunity corruption across both political parties and across different parts of the state.

COLMES: Jill, anything you want to add to that? And this is really — it's not about Democrats or Republicans. I mean you had Governor Ryan, you had Republican governors who — you know, as much trouble — Ryan's in jail, isn't he?

I mean, you know, he's got.

ZUCKMAN: Yes, Governor Ryan is still in jail. Interestingly enough Senator Durbin, a Democrat, recently asked President Bush to consider commuting his sentence, saying he thought he had suffered enough, that his health was bad, his wife's health was bad.

It wouldn't wipe out his sentence, but it's interesting watching a Democrat take pity on a Republican. I have to think that that plea might be in trouble now since we're faced with another governor.


ZUCKMAN: ... so corrupt and potentially facing jail time.

COLMES: Are you shocked, Dick, by Blagojevich? Was this a long-time in coming and everybody in Chicago knew and now the rest of the world knows or is everybody in Chicago as shocked as the rest of the country is?

SIMPSON: Well, everyone expected Blagojevich to be indicted. He's been part of three criminal trials so far listed as government official "A." Rather like Ryan, he helped orchestrate a conspiracy to take campaign contributions for government posts and for deals with various people.

What is surprising is that he would sell a U.S. Senate seat.


SIMPSON: ... threaten a children's hospital, and try and get the members of the "Tribune" editorial board fired.

COLMES: Yes. All right — we thank you both very much for being with us.

ZUCKMAN: Thank you.

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