Its largest city is legendary for machine-style politics and its elected leaders have been under investigation for years, but by one measure, Illinois is not even close to the nation's most-corrupt state.
North Dakota, it turns out, may hold that distinction instead.
Federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday after a wiretap allegedly recorded him scheming to make money on his appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich, a Democrat, ran for election in part on cleaning up after his predecessor, Republican George Ryan, who was convicted in 2006 of racketeering, bribery and extortion.
"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States it's certainly one hell of a competitor," Robert Grant, head of the FBI's Chicago office, said Tuesday.
On a per-capita basis, however, Illinois ranks 18th for the number of public corruption convictions the federal government has won from 1998 through 2007, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Department of Justice statistics.
Louisiana, Alaska and North Dakota all fared worse than the Land of Lincoln in that analysis.
Alaska narrowly ousted Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in the election in November after he was convicted of not reporting gifts from wealthy friends. In Louisiana, Democratic Rep. William Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on racketeering and bribery charges after the FBI said it found $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. Jefferson, who has maintained his innocence and will soon go to trial, lost his seat to a Republican this year.