Eliot Spitzer and “Springfield wives” (yes, Springfield, Illinois)

The Daily Herald ran an Associated Press story a few days ago with this headline: “Many of the nation’s statehouses gleefully mix sex and politics.”

ALBANY, N.Y. — Of all the wisecracks heard in the marble halls of New York’s Capitol after Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s downfall in a call-girl scandal, one jest enlightened as much as it stung: Spitzer’s got to be the only guy in Albany who PAYS for sex.

It is an open secret that there is a lot of fooling around going on at the statehouse. And at other statehouses, too.

Yes, that includes the Illinois statehouse.

For many, this instantly answers the question “why is it that we see so little real leadership emanating from our side of the aisle in Springfield?”

It’s not easy to be a reformer when there are skeletons in your closet or another woman in your bedroom.

Reform means upsetting a lot of entrenched and powerful interests. It means fighting corruption and seeking to implement real change. If you’d rather not risk riling up political enemies, you forget the reform thing altogether.

Sure, you might give a good speech at a Lincoln Day dinner or say terrific things in meetings with constituents. But the idea that your behavior back at the capitol might be revealed by an opponent keeps you from any serious action. You have all the incentive you need to shut up and play nice.

New York State’s new governor has already admitted extramarital affairs. Yes, that’s affairs, plural.

The AP story includes this:

At night, legislators, young staffers, younger interns, lobbyists and reporters mix at two or three bars just blocks from the Capitol. And there are numerous receptions, campaign stops and caucuses where lawmakers, straight and gay alike, often have many opportunities for a hookup.

Again, while the subject is Albany, it can easily be applied to Illinois.

Some people might think that reporters withholding damaging information about the sex lives powerful politicos is something that only used to happen back in the days of JFK. Think again.

In our state capital there is even a name given to one manifestation of it: “Springfield Wives.” This is where a married man has a second woman in his life who is almost considered a spouse while he’s in Springfield. In many cases discretion isn’t even required, as the culture allows for it.

A lot of Illinois voters might be surprised to see how some of their elected officials behave, and what kind of activities are tolerated in their state capital. Actually, this type of corruption fits in nicely with all the other kinds of dishonesty. In a city where billions of dollars are wasted on an annual basis, who cares about a little sex?

With Eliot Spitzer’s fall in New York there is an opportunity for some intrepid and courageous reporter to finally shine some light on what goes on here in Illinois. The political careers that would be ruined aren’t worth much anyway.