Champaign News-Gazette

What’s the point of trying to do a job that can’t be done well?

Former appellate court Justice Carol Pope last week became the latest in a series of legislative inspectors general to describe her post as “essentially a paper tiger” and question legislators’ commitment to enforcing ethical conduct.

As a consequence, Pope submitted her resignation.

She’s right, of course. But what else is new? The obvious purpose of her office, which was created in 2004, is to create the illusion of an institutional commitment to honorable conduct in office, not the real thing.

Appointed in 2019, Pope came into the office with her eyes wide open regarding the inspector general’s independence.

Her mistake, apparently, was believing Democratic and Republican legislators could be embarrassed into making changes providing more leeway to pursue allegations of misconduct.

But history demonstrates Illinois politicians, particularly members of the House and Senate, are incapable of being embarrassed. If they weren’t, they would have fallen all over themselves to make some of the changes suggested not only by Pope but Gov. JB Pritzker.

After all, Illinois is awash in criminal investigations involving legislators, most prominently former Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

Some voters might recall Pritzker’s speech last year to members of the General Assembly when he implored them to approve tighter ethics rules, particularly concerning legislators’ ability to moonlight as lobbyists.

But by the time the General Assembly adjourned in May, legislators produced a shell of an ethics bill designed only to fool the public into thinking they had made substantive changes.