Punished For The Same Sins

Former Ilinois Gov. George Ryan listens to questions from reporters Dec. 3, 2002, in Springfield, Ill. Ryan has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, tax fraud, filing false tax returns and making false statements to agents investigating corruption during the Ryan era.
AP (file)
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan has been sentenced to 6½ years in prison for a variety of corruption charges.

Ryan became world famous for his opposition to the death penalty. But for years while he was in state government, he regularly let cronies exploit state business. Worst of all, while Ryan was secretary of state, he sold truckers licenses to people who couldn't — or shouldn't — have received them.

Oddly enough, I was once on a dais with Ryan at a charity dinner in Illinois when he was secretary of state. As a joke, I invoked the late Paul Powell, the Illinois secretary of state who famously horded thousands of checks with his name on them sent in by dutiful taxpayers.

As I was making the joke, Ryan almost came out of his suit. I didn't think much of it at the time, but who would have guessed then that the man who would later become governor and be talked about as a possible Nobel Prize winner would be guilty of the same sins.

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By Harry Smith