Ending legislative scholarships: 'It wasn't what you know. It was who you knew,' ex-gov says
For a century, Illinois lawmakers received a bloc of college scholarships to hand out to students of their choice.
But rather than going to the neediest or most qualified, the tuition waivers to the state's public universities frequently went to the politically-connected children of lobbyists, campaign donors and, in at least one case, a mobster.
"It wasn't what you knew. It was who you knew," former Gov. Pat Quinn said in signing legislation to abolish the program.
Between 2011 and 2012, I delved into abuses of the program, along with my partner on some of those stories, the Better Government Association. We uncovered cases in which lawmakers repeatedly violated state law with no consequences by awarding tuition waivers to students living outside their legislative districts.
A federal investigation ensued, and our reporting was cited by state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, as a key reason his legislation eliminating the program was signed into law by Pat Quinn in 2012. As a sign of gratitude, Crespo gave me a pen Quinn used to enact the bill.