The Caucus Blog – Ethics Reform Needed Now!

Weiss Sentenced to 5 ½ Years For Bribery Scheme

A federal judge ruled on October 11 that corrupt businessman James T. Weiss will serve 5 ½ years behind bars for bribing two Illinois Democratic lawmakers and lying to the FBI. Weiss was found guilty during a federal trial that wrapped up in June.

In handing down the sentencing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago, U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger didn’t mince words. Judge Seeger called corruption “an embarrassment to the great city of Chicago,” and added, “Mr. Weiss, you added another star to Chicago’s walk of shame on the sidewalk of corruption.”

Weiss, a son-in-law of former Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, paid $32,500 in bribes to then-state representative Luis Arroyo and $5,000 to then-state senator Terry Link in a corrupt attempt to change state law to benefit his electronic sweepstakes business. Weiss also had plans to pay Link $25,000 more. A jury in June convicted Weiss of honest services wire and mail fraud, bribery, and lying to the FBI. 

Arroyo is now in prison after pleading guilty to bribery charges in 2021, while Link, who cooperated with the FBI investigation, faces sentencing for his own tax crimes. Arroyo and Link are both Democrats. Weiss is the husband of former Democratic state representative Toni Berrios. 

Judge Seeger sentenced Arroyo in May 2022 to nearly five years in prison for his role in the scheme. During that hearing, Seeger called Arroyo a “dirty politician who was on the take,” and a “corruption super-spreader.” At the Weiss trial, Judge Seeger found Weiss more responsible for the bribery scheme, saying to Weiss, “Looks to me like it was your idea.” 

The Weiss trial came on the heels of the ‘ComEd Four’ verdict tied to former Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan. That was also a high-profile bribery case, with four ComEd employees found guilty on a total of 30 corruption charges. 

Illinois House Republicans have consistently advocated for sweeping corruption and ethics reform. Despite numerous Illinois legislators being indicted or imprisoned on corruption charges since 2019, Illinois lags behind other states in enacting meaningful reforms. Among the reforms that would create a more honest and transparent government include eliminating conflicts of interest and empowering the Legislative Inspector General with subpoena powers.

Ethics reforms should be open and transparent, and it should be a bipartisan issue. House Republicans believe legislators should not be lobbyists, and they also believe in public service over self-interest. The time for pay-to-play politics must end. Learn more at the link below.