Illinois House expels Democrat indicted for bribery

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 17, 2012 3:04 PM
Illinois House expels Democrat indicted for bribery

By James B. Kelleher

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Reuters) - The Illinois House of Representatives on Friday expelled a Democratic lawmaker indicted for bribery, the first member to be booted from the chamber since 1905.

State House Representative Derrick Smith, who represents a staunchly Democratic district in Chicago, was arrested in March and charged with accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for endorsing a daycare center's state grant application.

He has denied the charges.

Days after his arrest and indictment, Smith won the Democratic Party primary to contest the November 6 election, in part because some Democrats hoped he would resign and be replaced on the ballot.

But Smith refused to bow out, and on Friday the full Illinois House voted 100 to 6 to expel him.

"I'm sad that my colleagues did not wait to hear all the evidence before voting against me," a choked-up Smith said at a news conference at his Chicago lawyer's office.

"I intend to remain on the ballot and intend to run for office in November," he added.

Smith's lawyers said the move to oust him was a pre-arranged political power grab of his seat by the House leadership.

An independent candidate has been identified and will get the support of the Democratic party organization, said political analyst Charles Wheeler of the University of Illinois in Springfield. He predicted Smith would lose.

Chicago and Illinois have a reputation for political corruption. The previous two governors of the state -- Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich -- are serving time in federal prisons.

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Numerous local, county and state Illinois officials have been charged in recent years with taking bribes, accepting kickbacks or other corruption.

The last member of the Illinois House to be expelled was Frank Comerford, who was ousted in 1905 for naming other members who had taken money from lobbyists. Comerford subsequently was reelected, the Illinois Secretary of State's office said.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Stern and Karen Pierog; Editing by Greg McCune; Paul Simao and Sandra Maler)