By Nancy Thorner -
Part of Chicago's ongoing corrupt reputation can be attributed to the city's "docile and dumb" voters, former state Senator Roger Keats and author of Chicago Confidential said Wednesday at Heartland Institute's ongoing author series.
"Chicago has an electorate that is docile and dumb, despite living in the most corrupt big city in the country and the most corrupt state in America," Keats said. "I haven't been able to figure out why voters don't care."
Corruption is rampant and ignored in Chicago, gangs rule the streets, lawmakers fight among themselves while the state drowns in debt, and to complicate matters, current Illinois' Governor Pat Quinn is missing in action, he said.
Having served as a state senator during three different decades, Keats saw two governors, 15 fellow lawmakers and 100 plus judges and court personnel, as well as countless government employees, land in jail.
Keats also served as part of the 1980s Operation Greylord investigation, where the last of many convictions was that of Judge Thomas J. Maloney, who was indicted in 1991 on bribery charges and convicted in April 1993 of fixing three murder cases for more than $100,000 in bribes. A total of 92 people were indicted, including 17 judges, 48 lawyers, ten deputy sheriffs, eight policemen, eight court officials, and state legislator James DeLeo.
All that was enough for the senator, who left Illinois in 2011 and is now retired with his wife, Tina, in Texas' Hill country. Just before leaving, Keats wrote a letter to friends explaining why he was leaving, which became an Internet sensation after being published on Illinois Review.
Although the senator had had some success with screenplays and real fiction, it was Keats' wife that finally convinced him that his imagination wasn't as good as the real life corruption he had experienced, and which continued in Chicago and Illinois. It was out of Keats' extensive knowledge of corruption that his book Chicago Confidential was born.
Keats explained why President Obama, from Chicago, was not a central figure in his book.
"Since Illinois was the training ground for Barack Obama, I thought it better not to attack Obama, but instead to leave him in peace," he said. Instead, he said he found it beneficial to use humor in writing Chicago Confidential. "Chicago Confidential is a story that is fun, with a little romance, tons of action, and all true," he said.
Sen. Keats considers Chicago Confidential more like "faction" than fiction, although for legal reasons the book must be considered a work of fiction. True events are wound together to form a unified story; however, the names of the individuals involved -- most were known personally by Keats -- were changed to protect the guilty.
As Keats explained, rather than write a dry recitation of the foibles of the crooks that control Chicago and Cook County, the idea of having facts read like fiction made more sense to him.
"In other words, it would be impossible to make up stuff about Chicago that would be any better than what is happening in the here and now," he said. "There are no unsolved crimes in Chicago, only police who don't wish to go after the gangs and a Chicago Democrat political establishment that has established a working relationship with gangs."
When asked why he thought corruption is so pervasive in Chicago, Keat said, "Don't have a solution to that other than to change the Chicago electorate."
And when asked if he is concerned about his safety after writing Chicago Confidential, Keats said, "All who speak out are likely to be targeted in some way."
He believes he was targeted subtlely. When living in Wilmette, Keats said his property taxes doubled during the last 10 years he lived there and were much higher than others around him. Property taxes in Texas are one-third to one-fourth of what they are in Illinois, he said, despite his property in Texas being larger than it was in Illinois.
And, Keats said, the corruption continues. "Chicago Confidential is current as of last fall, although there is new material every week," he said.