In the heyday of undercover reporting in Chicago, Bill Recktenwald was a master of disguise.

For a probe of election fraud in the late 1960s, he went undercover as an indigent drifter. Registering multiple times to vote, he signed with names such as James Joyce, Jay Gatsby and Henry David Thoreau. He worked incognito as a prison guard and as a private ambulance worker.

In perhaps the most flamboyant investigation in Chicago journalism history, Recktenwald posed as a bartender in a watering hole — the Mirage Tavern. It was purchased by the Chicago Sun-Times, working in partnership with Recktenwald’s employer (and now mine), the Better Government Association. Their 25-part series in 1978 exposed pervasive bribery and led to changes to state inspection codes.

Unassuming but groundbreaking. Hiding in plain sight, but with the power to change government. That was Bill Recktenwald.

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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.