A joke that made its way around Illinois in the 1970s was that if Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi wanted to give a local politician $1 million, funneled through a foreign bank, it would be a perfectly legal campaign contribution as long as it was disclosed.
Nowhere else in the country could a politician accept such a large donation from a non-American through a foreign corporation - let alone from such a controversial public figure.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Mobster Al Capone, here in 1931, got away with gambling and selling alcohol during Prohibition because he had a tight grip on City Hall. His men were known to roam the building looking for favors.
"But that's how things work here," said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Not much has changed in Illinois politics since 1969, when Mr. Gadhafi took power thousands of miles away.
Political corruption has a long history here, and it isn't likely to go away anytime soon, locals say. Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's recent arrest by the FBI on suspicion of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat threatens to keep the stain alive.
There have been Chicago aldermen, county judges, city clerks, bailiffs and three governors, according to a tally kept by Dick W. Simpson, a former Chicago alderman and head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dan Walker, who was governor in the 1970s, received fraudulent loans for his business and his yacht, the Governor's Lady.
He admitted to and apologized for his crimes for the first time this month as he appeals to President Bush for a last-minute commutation.
Analysts say machine politics - in which financial contributions and party loyalty are rewarded with jobs and contracts - was cultivated and perfected by former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the current mayor's father.
Voter groups are pushing for more stringent campaign contribution laws. Under the current system, any person, corporation or group can donate any amount of money to any candidate. The groups say limits would stem bribes and promises of goods or jobs in exchange for contributions. There are restrictions in most states and at the federal level.