Corruption is rife in Indianapolis. The “pay-to-play” system is in place., Donors of large amounts of campaign dollars receive largesse in the form of lucrative contracts. Those few who are lucky enough to own professional sports franchises sniff out and chomp onto extra dollars Indianapolis might have at any given time.
Last night I decided to speak with an authority on corruption—Mayor Richard J. Daley, former Mayor of Chicago. If you think he still is alive, you are thinking of Richard P. Daley, also a former Chicago Mayor, but Richard J. Daley’s son.
Richard J. Daley died in office—literally, behind his desk—in 1975. The name “Chicago” and the term “corruption” had been intertwined for decades, but Daley took corruption to new levels.
I contacted a medium to arrange a seance whereby I could contact the late Hizzoner. We met at a house, appropriately enough, in the Bridgeport area—Daley lived in the Bridgeport neighborhood in Chicago on its South side—near the airport. A candle was lit. Some phrases were mumbled, and I felt a cold presence in the room.
“Who the hell are you?” a voice barked.
“I’m here to ask about aspects of politics in Indiana.”
“Why you wanta ask me? I don’t know nothin’ about Indiana.”
“There’s a problem with corruption in Indianapolis. You seemed to handle corruption well as Mayor of Chicago. I wanted some advice.”
There was a pause before he said, “You a member of the Democratic Party?”
“I vote in that primary.”
“Have you paid my appearance fee?” I said I had paid the medium. “No, dumbass. Have you paid MY appearance fee? A hundred bucks.”
A hand thrust out from thin air, palm up. Hastily I pulled out several twenties a couple of tens and the balance in ones. The hand took the money back. I heard a different voice tell Hizzoner, “Count’s right.”
“Okay, whaddya want to know? ‘Cause I didn’t know nothin’. See, there’s three things ta motivate men. Those are sex, money, and politics. I always was happily married. And I never took bribes.”
“Members of your administration took them, though.”
“And they knew damn well enough never to let me know about those bribes. The only extravagances I enjoyed were a bowling alley in my basement and a police-driven sedan to my office every morning. And we always stopped so I could attend mass before work. If some dumb bastard got caught with his hand in the till, the problem was his.”
I explained how Indianapolis had gone from a clean City to one in which corruption was a constant. I described the ways in which “pay-to-play” worked. He stopped me.
“Let me get this straight. Nobody’s accused of a ‘quid-pro-quo’ deal? A guy just dumps campaign funds onto the candidate of choice and contracts get let?”
“Yes. And get this. The Indiana Pacers have such a lock on the City’s culture and self-identity that the Pacers’ owner got the City to build a fieldhouse, doesn’t pay rent, receives ALL the revenues from ALL the events—basketball and non-basketball—held in the place, and the City has agreed to pay the team $160 million over the next ten years.”
I heard a ghostly chuckle. “You’re kiddin’ me, right?” I assured him my description was accurate. how. “What about the papers? They ain’t rakin’ politicians over the coals over this?”
I explained Indianapolis lacks a real newspaper these days. “If anything, the daily newspaper is a cheerleader for the City leaders and the acts of corruption. People who write for the newspaper make it sound like the City’s taxpayers are lucky.”
“They figured out the Magic Solution to corruption. Just ‘cause somethin’s wrong don’t make it illegal. And as long as you get money in the right hands and don’t do it in violation of the law, you can be as corrupt as you want, right out in the open. I guess I’m in the wrong place. Your City sounds like paradise.”
I could not let that comment slide. “So you’re in Heaven?”
“You kiddin’? After all them donations I made and how I attended Mass every mornin’ before work?” He wanted to know about current political issues, in general. I described to him the concept of climate change and how people were concerned. He seemed bored by that topic.
“The only ‘climate change I’d be interested in is if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. That’s when hell will freeze over.”
“I thought you said you’re in heaven.”
“Yeah, but hell’s not that far away, and we can hear noises from over there when things get too bad. Like when Steinbrenner died. Satan came over here bitchin’ cause he said Steinbrenner had taken that place over. Well, nice talkin’ to ya, but I’m goin’ back. I’m bowlin’ with Hoffa.”
Just like that, Mayor Richard J. Daley was gone, and even he was amazed by corruption in the Circle City.