Indicting Ike

Unsurprising development

No ardent political observer was surprised to hear yesterday that powerful West Side Alderman Isaac Carothers (D-29th) had been indicted on fraud and bribery charges by the federal prosecutors.

City Council colleagues weren't even surprised to learn that Carothers had worn a wire for a year, though that may have been because he was probably mouthing, "I'm wearing a wire!" before every private conversation he had with colleagues.

There are some aldermen you just expect to get indicted someday, some you expect to wear a wire, and some you expect to fade into oblivion without ever making a mark on Chicago history.

Carothers was an alderman that council junkies had on their "expect to get indicted" list.

True enough, there were obvious clues.

News reports had already revealed that in 2007 the feds had subpoeaned zoning records relating to Carothers.

It was only a matter of time.

Carothers has also been a staunch ally of Mayor Daley, which also puts him on the watch list. Staunch allies of the mayor tend to roll the dice on the legality of their rewards and the chances of ever being caught pursuing them.

Opponents of the mayor just tend to be crushed politically, not legally.

Corruption also runs in Carothers' family; his father, William Carothers, who was the alderman of the 28th Ward, went to prison in 1983 for extortion. Though, in general, it's not fair to let the sins of a parent taint a child, in Chicago we all know how politics, corruption and crime tend to be family businesses.

William Carothers stands in the Chicago record books as one of 30 aldermen convicted of one crime or another in the last 36 years. A criminologist ought to compare that figure to the criminality of any random group of Chicago citizens chosen out of the phone book.

A case could also be made that simply being an alderman automatically meets the legal standard of probable cause.

Crooked councilmen are as much a part of the fabric of Chicago life as 75-year parking meter leases and CTA slow zones. One day, voters will see the connection.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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