Seemingly out of the blue, Ald. Ed Smith has written to President Bush requesting not only that George Ryan’s sentence be commuted, but that former Ald. Larry Bloom be pardoned.
Of course, nothing just happens out of the blue in Chicago politics, so I’m sure there’s a backstory we’re not privy to yet. But let us now take a moment to remember Bloom’s crime, and ponder whether he, of all felons in Illinois, deserves forgiveness.
Bloom, you may recall, was stung in Operation Silver Shovel, having accepted $14,000 in bribes from FBI mole John Christopher. A lousy $14,000!
He pled guilty to a felony tax charge and served six months in the famed federal retreat in Oxford, Wisconsin, where he was probably laughed at by other Chicago pols for his meager haul. Bloom was released in 1999.
He shared a prison wing with three former aldermen, Virgil Jones, John Madrzyk and Jesse Evans; a former Water Reclamation Commissioner, Tom Fuller; and a former state representative, Bruce Farley. “We didn’t have a name for our wing, but we’d call `quorum’ every time we walked down the hall,” Bloom joked to Sneed after his release.
Hilarious, don’t you think?
If Bloom had been any other pol, it would have been easier to take. But Bloom’s real crime was to deepen the cynicism of our local political culture because he wasn’t just any other pol – he was Mr. Clean. From Hyde Park. An independent. A reformer.