Former Illinois state Sen. Annazette Collins was charged in a
five-count indictment March 31 stating she “substantially” underreported income
and failed to file corporate and individual income tax returns between 2o14 and
2016 related to her work as a lobbyist.
Collins’ is the third federal case to become public in a week involving
politics, money and corruption in Illinois. One of her lobbying clients was
Commonwealth Edison, the power utility that admitted to over $1.3 million in
bribes to curry political favor with former Illinois House Speaker Michael
Madigan in order to secure legislation worth $150 million to the company.
Collins was a state lawmaker for 13 years until she lost her primary election
and ended her Illinois Senate term in 2013. In 2014, she joined eight other
former lawmakers and top staffers of Madigan in becoming a contract lobbyist for
After ComEd admitted to the bribery scheme, the corruption probe has seen the
indictment of former ComEd lobbyists Jay Hooker and Madigan confidant Michael
Collins stopped working with ComEd in 2019 when news of the federal
investigation into the utility provider’s Springfield lobbying practices began
The former state senator was charged by a federal grand jury for reporting
personal income of just $11,500 in 2014 and $10,154 in 2015 on tax returns.
According to the charges, she did so knowing “that the total income
substantially exceeded that amount.” Collins failed to file individual income
tax returns in 2016.
Collins also allegedly failed to file corporate income tax returns on behalf of
her Chicago-based consulting and lobbying firm, Kourtnie Nicole Corp., in 2015
The charges do not mention Collins’ work for ComEd.
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Besides Collins, a political operative for the late
state Sen. Martin Sandoval and Chicago Ald. Ed Burke was charged
March 30 with failing to tell the FBI about bribes. Rudy Acosta Sr.
was charged with withholding information from the FBI about cash
payments he made to an unnamed senator, which the Chicago Sun-Times
confirmed was Sandoval. Sandoval last year pleaded guilty to
accepting $250,000 in bribes. Burke was indicted on 14 counts of
corruption in May 2019.
Also March 30, the Chicago Tribune said unnamed sources revealed a
federal investigation into influence peddling by Chicago-based
marijuana company Green Thumb Industries. The company hired four
close associates of Madigan, including McClain.
The feds’ very busy week is a reminder of the pervasiveness of
Illinois’ culture of political corruption. While legislative reforms
cannot stop illegal actions, they can set a tone and create an
expectation of ethical conduct early in a lawmaker’s career.
Collins’ statement of economic interest from near
the end of her Senate term is an example of one problem. Every
question is answered with “none,” which illustrates why the
statements are derisively known as “none sheets,” giving voters
little insight and relying on lawmakers’ judgment and honesty.
State lawmakers should reform the statements of economic interest.
They should outline the lawmaker’s financial investments, business
associations and sources of income. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel
“Chris” Welch has pointed out the forms are essentially worthless
and need to be changed.
State lawmakers are considering reforms that could help change the
culture by making politics more transparent and ethical. Ethics
reform bills would change the financial disclosure forms, ban
lobbying by sitting lawmakers, block the Statehouse’s revolving door
between lawmaking and lobbying, and empower the legislative
inspector general to investigate and publish political misconduct
without lawmaker approval.
Illinois is the second-most corrupt state in the nation and that
corruption comes with a heavy price tag for the state economy – more
than $550 million per year.
Not only does corruption cost all Illinois taxpayers, but it shakes
residents’ faith in state and local politicians when they use
positions of public trust to put their personal gain ahead of public
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