Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Illinois' Proud Political Tradition

Last Sunday's Chicago Tribune included an interesting history of the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs this year (Obama's former office, currently filled by Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris). Among the many rogues in our state's past, William Lorimer (senator from 1909 to 1912) stands out:
After the legislature picked Lorimer as senator, one lawmaker confessed that he had traded his vote for $1,000. (A Chicago Tribune editor paid the lawmaker three times as much for his confession.) Soon other legislators also admitted taking bribes. But the U.S. Senate ruled Lorimer could keep the seat, noting that the number of corrupt votes was smaller than Lorimer's margin of victory. When even more allegations piled up, the Senate finally expelled Lorimer, who turned his attention to his other business: banking.
My favorite part is the parenthetical sentence. Paying the legislator -- who, though unnamed, is the real villain in Lorimer's tale -- three times the bribe he took in exchange for a confession isn't exactly a high point in Chicago journalism.

Fun math problem: If, instead of being paid to that legislator, the $3,000 had been invested in stocks at an average rate of return (and assuming it didn't get wiped out in the Great Depression), how much would it be worth today? Would it be enough to bail the Tribune Company out of its financial woes?

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