Corporation execs tackle ethics–as do government officials

Here we go again, Chicago. When I was growing up on its northwest side, Mayor Richard J. Daley ruled thecity with an iron hand, thumb, fingers, arm and every other appendage you can use to control things. Over the years evidence accumulated that Mayor Daley had questionable connections…

But damn, the city worked. You didn’t, for example, find highway workers mucking up the rush hours with construction messes. They did a lot of their work in the dark–you’d pass by them at 10, 12, 1 at night, digging and pouring and all-that-stuff-that-highway-construction-folks-do, their worksites shining with powerful lights, so people could get to work in the daytime with the least hassle.

Now Daley’s son, Richard M. Daley (like the elder Bush, he wanted a namesake but didn’t want to stick him with the “junior” tag) is up to the same tricks as dad. The Economist writes:

Federal investigators looking into Chicago’s hired-truck and affirmative-action programmes are moving the probes ever closer to Mayor Richard Daley’s inner circle. Gary Shapiro, the Assistant US Attorney in charge of the investigation, said that corruption in the hired-truck programme was endemic: former city officials have been charged with extracting more than $200,000 in bribes, gifts and political donations from firms hoping to keep city contracts. A plumbing company owned by a sister of Victor Reyes, a mayoral aide, was found to have worked on a construction project at O’Hare Airport, a tie that has raised eyebrows. This scandal surfaced less than a week after James Duff, a contractor and major supporter of Mr Daley, pleaded guilty to defrauding the city after falsely claiming the business was female-owned in order to win more contracts. Jesse Jackson, Jr, a Chicago congressman who is usually a staunch supporter of Mr Daley, has blasted the mayor.

Well, I wonder how many big-city mayors don’t get caught up in this kind of thing? “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (attribiuted variously). If you’ve ever been in a position of power, you know how relentless the assaults can be–compromise can quietly and easily slip from meaning a sensible solution for both sides of a difficult issue, to being the sad condition in which you find your principles.

What’s the answer? Life’s a balancing act anyway. Maybe the answer is just that that’s life, and our challenge is to negotiate it with grace and good will.

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