Sen. Thomas Cullerton
Illinois state Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) sees state Sen. Thomas Cullerton’s federal indictment on corruption charges as just another black-eye for the face of Illinois politics.
“Things like this just feed the narrative that the political system is corrupt, the politicians who run the system are corrupt and there is nothing that the average person can do about it,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “It reflects badly on all of us because it reinforces the stereotype of the Chicago politician. We’re seeing so many criminal probes of the Chicago Machine it just lends credence to the cliché about how corrupt Illinois politics are. It’s helped create the exodus that’s seen people leaving this state every five minutes.”
The Chicago Tribune reports Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is accused of pocketing as much as $275,000 from a job he took from union bosses where he had no duties or even job description. Cullerton’s indictment came just three days after former longtime Teamsters boss John Coli Sr. pleaded guilty to federal charges of corruption and agreed to cooperate with authorities going forward. Details in the filing allege that Cullerton and Coli were in cahoots as recently as four years ago with the veteran lawmaker walking away with the high-salaried post now at the center of the probe.
In all, Cullerton faces 39 counts of embezzlement and a single charge of conspiracy and making false statements, with each of the charges carrying up to five years in prison if convicted.
“The exodus is fueled by the corrupt, career politicians that have run this state for the last 20, 40 years,” Caulkins added. “I don’t think there’s anyone surprised, maybe that it’s this particular person.”
Through his attorneys, the 49-yer-old Cullerton, a distant cousin of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), has denied all the charges.
According to the indictment, Cullerton had been a member of Teamsters Local Union 734 before assuming his state Senate seat in January 2013. He is the seventh Illinois legislator to be hit with criminal charges over the last seven years.
Cullerton’s 23rd Senate District includes Addison, Bloomingdale, Bartlett, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Itasca, Roselle, Villa Park, West Chicago, Wayne and Wood Dale.