Midwest Social Sciences Journal


Despite the comical title, there is a lot of corruption in East Chicago (IN) politics. One mayoral election had to have a “do-over” because of fraudulent absentee ballots, and a former mayor is doing time in jail for using public monies to remodel his home. This cornucopia of corruption extended to the indictment of six public officials (the so-called Sidewalk Six) in East Chicago for misusing public funds for political gain, specifically vote-buying, in the 1999 mayoral reelection of Robert Pastrick. These officials, ranging from a parks superintendent to a city engineer to several city council members, bought votes by pouring sidewalks, installing driveways, trimming trees, and more on private property using public funds and noncompetitive bids. This scandal will be the topic of this paper. This type of corruption (vote-buying) falls under the categories of white and gray corruption as theorized by Heidenheimer (1970), where white corruption is typically found in kinship-based systems and is tolerated, and gray corruption is found in boss-patronage systems is not thought to be wrong by those involved. It is hypothesized that the vote-buying in East Chicago occurred because of four elements: lack of a competitive second party (Democrats have controlled East Chicago since its incorporation in 1889), machine politics, a largely ethnic immigrant population, and large amounts of casino money. This article explains how this type of corruption fits into the larger literature on corruption and concludes with the prospects for cleaner politics in East Chicago, Indiana.