If you want to win a political office in ChiTown, simply having the Democratic "D" next to your name can nudge you to victory ... even if you are currently facing federal bribery charges, were recently expelled from office, and your own party is running an "independent" candidate against you.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Illinois state Representative Derrick Smith. Last year, he was appointed to the seat to fill a vacancy. Back in March, he was indicted for allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for writing a grant recommendation for an early childhood education center, reports the Associated Press. Shortly thereafter, he made dubious history by being the first person to be expelled from the House in 107 years. According to the Chicago Tribune, the vote in favor of expulsion was 100-6.
His name still remained on the ballot in the primary however. The leaders of the Democratic Party backed through the primary with the understanding that he would drop out of the race afterwards, allowing them to appoint a candidate to take the spot. Unfortunately, the only thing he backed out of was the backroom deal. He stayed in the race.
His former mentor, Secretary of State Jesse White, along with Governor Pat Quinn and Alderman Walter Burnett all turned against him. He stayed in the race. They backed another Democrat, Lance Tyson, as an “independent” candidate to run against him. They posted “WANTED” signs with Smith’s photo, advertising his legal troubles. They even handed out brochures that read: “Derrick Smith is so corrupt that even the Illinois Legislature doesn’t want him around,” thereby conceding that Illinois’ political system is a mess.
Last night, Rep. Derrick Smith regained his seat with 63 percent of the vote, compared to Lance Tyson’s 37 percent. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. A man who is facing federal bribery charges, was impeached, and expelled from the legislature of a historically corrupt state political system just won reelection by a margin of 26 percent. The Federalists’ fears have been realized.
Back in March, Smith was indicted under 18 U.S.C. § 666, which is a federal anti-bribery law. He is facing up to 10 years in prison, plus a fine, if convicted. According to the Tribune, he was caught in an FBI sting taking a bribe of $7,000 in cash from a long time friend-turned-FBI-informant in exchange for the grant recommendation. He also reportedly told his friend that he needed additional “campaign donations” and was willing to exchange favors for donors’ support.
For those wondering about his status as a member of the House, he cannot be expelled again for the same allegations. He can, however, be expelled again if convicted.
- Speak to a Chicago Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- Federal complaint against state Rep. Derrick Smith (Chicago Tribune)
- Corrupt Chicago Politicians Took Bribes? Shocking! (FindLaw’s Chicago Criminal Law Blog)
- Appeals Court: You Weren’t Bribed Enough to be Convicted (FindLaw’s Chicago Criminal Law Blog)