By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time in this millennium, a governor in Illinois has left office not under a cloud of a federal corruption investigation.
In this final hours before Gov. Bruce Rauner was inaugurated, former Gov. Pat Quinn commuted the sentences of six people, signed some bills and decided not to issue medical marijuana licenses.
That might be a typical last day in many states, except in Illinois the past two governors were sent to prison on various corruption charges.
In 2002, Gov. George Ryan decided not to seek re-election as federal prosecutors began closing in on him as part of the Operation Safe Roads investigation. About a year later, in December 2003, Ryan was indicted.
He was convicted on charges that he steered several state contracts to his friends; spent campaign funds to pay personal expenses and obstructed justice by attempting to end the state investigation of the license-for-bribes scandal. While he was Secretary of State, state workers accepted cash in return for issuing truck driver licenses.
Ryan was released from prison in 2013 and is living in the family home in Kankakee.
Ryan’s decision not to run in 2002 cleared the way for Rod Blagojevich to become governor.
During his second term, Blagojevich was indicted on multiple counts, including conspiring to sell off a U.S. Senate appointment to the highest bidder. He was removed from office by impeachment in 2009. Quinn, who was Blagojevich’s lieutenant governor, took over and then won re-election in 2010.
Eventually, Blagojevich was convicted in a second trial (the first was declared a mistrial) and sent to prison in 2012 for 14 years.
Two other Illinois governors have been sent to jail. Otto Kerner, Jr. governor from 1961 to 1968; was convicted of bribery and income-tax charges from his time as governor, and received three years in prison in 1973.
Daniel Walker, governor from 1973 to 1977, was later involved in the savings and loan scandals and convicted of federal crimes related to fraudulent loans. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.