I'm convinced that at least half of the reason that Chicago has the reputation for politics more scandalous than other parts of the country is because scandal is drummed up by the local media. Rags like the Tribune and the Sun-Times use the language of "appearances" of corruption and guilt by association to imply that which is most sinister.
Witness the Tribune's current efforts to hang the sign of a man named Antoin Rezko on Senator Barack Obama. Rezko was involved in some state government scandals, and the Tribune has since decided to impute Obama based on association. Their most recent implication is that Obama's office gave a college student an internship as a favor to Rezko, who appears to be a family friend of this intern. Obama's office is of course cornered into denying that Obama has ever done any favors for Rezko. Honestly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the intern got her job through Rezko, not because Obama is uniquely bereft of an ethical compass but because that's how internships generally work on the Hill.
Perhaps the Tribune could use its considerable but dwindling resources for reportage to cover the more interesting angle of how internships are ferreted out in Washington. The current thought is that these relatively inconsequential jobs would serve as good reward for loyal (and big) donors to the Congressman. I don't think there is anything wrong with hiring someone loyal to a candidate-- a campaign worker, for instance, is a natural choice to fill a post-election job--but the kin of a big donor is someone who has gotten a job entirely because of blood association to wealth.
This leads to what I see as a larger problem of entitlement by some of the wealthy and well-connected in our society. It is revolting when people get jobs or admissions to college because of their family connections. My revulsion is directed not just at the party who is doing the admitting but also at the donor expecting a quid pro quo. If you donate to a university or candidate, it should be out of belief in the institution or the cause, not to tip the scales in favor of your child. From what I have heard from people who have worked in admissions at colleges, it is general policy to give a big donor's black sheep kin the benefit of the doubt. Such practices reconcile us all to playing the game, "networking," valuing superficial connections over merit and repeating the mantra that this is just how things work. Wouldn't it be nice though if some of these privelged people could lead from the top and not expect special treatment for their children?