Former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon of Makanda died December 9 in Springfield
following heart surgery. Simon, known for integrity and high ethical
standards, was 75. A Democratic presidential candidate in 1988,
Simon was director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois
University at Carbondale at the time of his death. The former newspaperman
was a founder of Illinois Issues. He also was the first director
of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at what is now the University
of Illinois at Springfield.
Issues, December 10, 2003
Mikva didnt like The New York Times coverage
of the death of his friend, the former U.S. senator who died December
9 at 75. They made him sound like a goodie two-shoes. He wasnt,
says Mikva, a former federal appellate judge who served with Simon
in the state legislature and in Congress.
was an incredibly effective politician in the best sense of the
word. Simons integrity may have looked like naivete
in an era when a gotcha mentality tends to drive politics
and journalism, says Mikva, who was White House counsel in the midst
of Simons 1985-1997 Senate tenure. Paul never operated
that way. He would try to woo you on his own terms.
He was incorruptible, never exhibited ill-will or threw around his
Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch says shes been asked
frequently about what she believes to be Simons legacy. No.
1, he survived 40 or 45 or so years in politics with his integrity,
credibility, compassion and thoughtfulness intact.
the son of Lutheran missionaries, was born in 1928 in Eugene, Ore.
At 19, he was urged to buy a dying newspaper that served the southern
Illinois region where his parents had settled. He exposed corruption
while at the Troy Tribune, reporting that Madison County
officials allowed prostitution and gambling to go unchecked. Eventually,
he owned 14 weekly newspapers, then decided he could effect greater
change from the inside of the political arena.
25, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where
his first triumph was getting Right-to-Know on the books, requiring
government bodies to meet in public.
also found more corruption to expose. Members talked openly
about certain measures being money bills and others
being fetchers, Simon wrote in his autobiography.
The fetcher was lucrative for lawmakers who were willing to introduce
a bill, then kill it in exchange for lobbyists cash. Mikva
remembers Simon incurring the wrath of a fellow lawmaker for interfering
with a fetcher. That lawmaker told Simon, The trouble with
you Reverend ... is you dont know a good bill when you see
when Simon couldnt convince news editors to investigate corruption
in the legislature, he wrote an article himself, knowing he was
putting his political career in jeopardy. After the article appeared
in the September 1964 edition of Harpers magazine,
some fellow lawmakers labeled him Benedict Arnold.
writing the piece, he served four years in the state Senate. He
was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, serving
until his election to the U.S. Senate a decade later. Simons
only election setbacks were in primary bids for the governors
mansion in 1972 and the U.S. presidency in 1988.
wrote Simon, is the best way to stop unethical behavior. Simon died
the afternoon Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a strong ethics bill.
Netsch said when she spoke with Simon two days earlier, he told
her it was too bad he wouldnt be able to attend the signing
ceremony. He was certainly there in spirit.
was the first state official to require financial disclosure of
his staff, their spouses and even minor children, remembers Gene
Callahan, who served as Simons press secretary after he was
elected lieutenant governor in 1968. Simon disclosed his own sources
of income right down to the $1.58 refund from a clothing store.
He did so throughout his career in elective office, which ended
with his decision in 1996 not to run for the Senate again.
tolerated no dishonesty or lying. His basic philosophy was if youd
lie, youd steal, says Callahan. Youll
never meet a man with more integrity, but there was more to him
than integrity; he was kind and compassionate.
compassion informs Mikvas assessment of Simons stature
among Illinois greatest statesmen: I think hes
the best weve ever had. Weve had some fine government
officials, but none as absolutely decent as Paul Simon.
Issues, January 2004
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