Insull and the ICC

The Civic Opera House next to the old Chicago & Northwestern Railroadd Station was built by Samuel Insull.

The Civic Opera House next to the old Chicago & Northwestern Railroadd Station was built by Samuel Insull.

I have previously told of my encounter with Samuel Insull’s secretary on a train ride to Springfield.

He told me that Insull got tired of bribing the Illinois General Assembly.

Insull decided that creating a Commerce Commission would be cheaper because there would be fewer members.

Now I have found something in writing concerning Insull’s connection to an Illinois Commerce Commissioner:

It was in an Illinois Issues article about congressional corruption by Thomas Gradel this past August 20th:

In 1926, Frank Smith, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, entered the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

He accepted a $125,000 campaign contribution from Samuel Insull, a powerful owner of a public utility regulated by the ICC.

This was a clear conflict of interest and illegal under state law.

Nonetheless, Smith won the primary and the general election.

A Senate Committee refused to seat him after ruling that Smith’s election was tainted with blatant fraud and corruption.

Smith ran again for the seat in a special election in 1928 but was rejected by the voters.

Now, the successors of Samuel Insull’s electric company–Commonwealth Edison and Ameren–have apparently returned to the original model.

They deal with the legislators through the means of campaign contributions.

And they usually get their way.

If you are interested in how much money it takes, you might want to read this 2001 article:

2011 Campaign Contributions from Those Interested in Allowing Com Ed & Ameren to Hike Electric Rates without ICC Approval


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