Chicago's reputation for corruption is the basis of local and even national folklore and humor. Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003 unfolds the city's notorious history of corruption and the countervailing reform struggles that largely failed to clean it up. More than a regional history of crime in politics, this wide-ranging account of governmental malfeasances traces ongoing public corruption and reform to its nineteenth-century democratic roots. Former Chicago journalist James L. Merriner reveals the battles between corrupt politicos and ardent reformers to be expressions of conflicting class, ethnic, and religious values. From Chicago's earliest years in the 1830s, the city welcomed dollar-chasing businessmen and politicians, swiftly followed by reformers who strived to clean up the attendant corruption. Reformers in Chicago were called ""goo goos,"" a derisive epithet short for good-government types. Grafters and Goo Goos contends a certain synergy defined the relationship between corruption and reform. Drawing on original and archival research, Merriner identifies constants in the struggle between corruption and reform amid a welter of changing social circumstances and customs - decades of alternating war and peace, hardships and prosperity. Three areas of reform and resistance are identified: structural reform of the political system to promote honesty and efficiency, social reform to provide justice to the lower classes, and moral reform to combat vice. Complemented by eighteen illustrations, Grafters and Goo Goos is rife with shocking and amusing anecdotes and peppered with the personalities of famous muckrakers, bootleggers, mayors, and mobsters. While other studies have profiled infamous Chicago corruption cases and figures such as Al Capone and Richard J. Daley, this is the first to provide an overview appropriate for historians and general readers alike.
James L. Merriner covered Chicago and national politics for more than two decades as political editor of the "Chicago Sun-Times" and the "Atlanta Constitution." He is the author of "Mr. Chairman: Power in Dan Rostenkowski s America" and "The City Club of Chicago: A Centennial History, 19032003" and the coauthor of "Against Long Odds: Citizens Who Challenge Congressional Incumbents. "He was a James Thurber Writer-in-Residence at Ohio State University and teaches at Marietta College."