Rep. La Shawn Ford. (Photo: Seth Perlman/AP Photo, File)
What does the Illinois General Assembly have that most other state legislatures do not? Three lawmakers facing criminal charges. Today it will swear in two representatives and a senator who've been accused of bribery, bank fraud and trying to bring a gun onto an airplane, the Associated Press reports.
Rep. Derrick Smith was expelled from office last summer after being arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe in exchange for supporting a day-care center's grant application. He was re-elected in November.
Rep. La Shawn Ford, who has been accused of bank fraud, allegedly made false statements to increase his line of credit.
Sen. Donne Trotter says he forgot the gun that led to his arrest at an airport was in his bag.
All three lawmakers have pleaded not guilty.
"All this does is confirm those negative, cynical opinions that are out there," University of Illinois at Springfield political scientist Kent Redfield told the Associated Press. "Part of that reputation is well deserved…but if you're trying to get citizens of Illinois to accept the legitimacy of the process you need as much credibility and trust as you can muster. That's in pretty low supply in state government currently."
Illinois has sent three African-American senators and the nation's first Black president to Washington, but it also has sent two consecutive governors to prison.
It is not, however, the only state with lawmakers in legal hot water, the AP notes. Two state representatives in South Carolina have been fined for tax-related crimes and a California state senator, like Illinois' Smith, won re-election while facing felony counts of voter fraud and perjury.
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