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Type "Chicago corruption" into Amazon.com's search engine and expect to find pages and pages of book listings.

If the online retailer were a big box store, it'd need an entire department of shelves to hold all the available items about the topic.

The point?

"Chicago" and "corruption" are synonymous. Like "bread" and "butter" or "Cody Parkey" and "double-doink," it's hard to think of one without the other.

That's why the recent bombshell headlines from Chicago City Hall in recent weeks should come as no surprise.

The federal government charged longtime Alderman Edward Burke with using his powerful elected position to strong-arm a local businessman into using his private law firm for property tax matters.

The feds also have enough on Alderman Daniel Solis to have prompted him to agree to wear a wire during conversations with his colleagues in attempts to nail more corrupt politicians.

And this week we found out that the FBI has a secret recording of a conversation between Solis, a developer who wanted political help on a hotel project, and powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime and, through his attorney, says he is not under investigation. At least not as far as he knows.

But there he is, on tape, trying to solicit business for his private law firm from the needy developer who Solis delivered to him.

“We’re not interested in a quick killing here,” Madigan told the developer on the recording. “We’re interested in a long-term relationship.”

Outside of Madigan's presence, Solis told the developer that "if he works with the Speaker, he will get anything he needs for that hotel.”

In an affidavit filed as part of the criminal probe, an FBI agent interpreted the conversation this way: “I understand Solis to mean that by hiring Madigan’s private firm, [the developer] would ensure that Solis and Madigan would take official action benefiting [the developer] in their capacity as public officials.”

Now, an FBI agent's interpretation of what he or she thinks a conversation means is not hard evidence. There's no smoking gun in that. But it certainly suggests that the feds are investigating any Madigan connection to pay-to-play politics in Chicago or other potentially corrupt activity.

Remember, it was the feds who brought down corrupt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, he of the "f---ing golden" U.S. Senate seat he sought to sell to the highest bidder. And it was the feds who brought down former Gov. George Ryan, also on corruption-related charges.

So is Madigan the primary target of the FBI probe? Nobody outside the FBI knows for certain.

But, as recent history suggests, the feds tend to aim for the top.

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Dan McCaleb is news director of Illinois News Network, a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. His columns include his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. Contact Dan at dmccaleb@ilnews.org.

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