Manipulating a Reformer

Ever hear of Roland Libonati?

He was a state senator while Jeanne Hurley (then) Simon was state representative from Evanston. Libonati later became a member of Congress representing the west side of Chicago.

I met him in the Springfield train station after session adjourned for the week one day in the 1970’s. He had been visiting old friends, sitting next to Larry DiPrima in the back row where the Royal Order of the Mushrooms sat.

At the train station, DiPrima introduced me to Libonati.

After a while he warmed up to me, concluding that I wasn’t a threat and started tell old war stories.

He told of how some non-reformers convinced Jeanne Hurley Simon to introduce legislation to limit secret tape recording. Here are the two I suppose he was referring to two 1957 bills, House Bills 1210 and 1211 (click to enlarge the Digest listings):

The idea came up after Chicago American reporter Jack Mabley had gotten a series of stories on corruption. Someone taped (see p. 28) legislators talking in their hotel rooms.

“The tapes had been stashed in lockers at the Greyhound bus station. Mabley got the keys anonymously,”

Statehouse reporter Ray Long wrote for the April, 1996, Illinois Issues when he was working for the Associated Press.

Hotel rooms had transoms at that time and the legislature’s verbal history has it that those willing to be bribed left their transoms open so lobbyists could toss money into the room.

Needless to say, Libonati, reportedly a member of the West Side Bloc beholding to the Crime Syndicate, did not convey that tale.

But he did say that his friends had snookered the woman who married Paul Simon into sponsoring legislation that he and his allies wanted passed.

He laughed as he explained that she thought it was a “good government” bill.

And, perhaps you will laugh at what Long printed about what former Governor and now sometimes lobbyist Jim Thompson told him:

“There’s no question that back decades ago Illinois, like many states, was kind of a wild and woolly place. My guess is today it’s probably about as clean as you can get.”

That was before the George Ryan and Tony Rezko trials, of course.

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