The sentencing revealed many details which were previously unknown. The conviction stated that Ling had sought to use his influence to advance the interests of senior regional officials Li Chuncheng, Pan Yiyang, and Bai Enpei; all three had fallen under the axe of the anti-corruption campaign though their links to Ling were unclear hitherto the conviction. It also stated that his wife, Gu Liping, and his son, Ling Gu, had taken some bribes on behalf of the Ling family. Ling Gu was said to have solicited bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan (~$1 million) from Wei Xin, a senior executive of Founder Group. Ling and his wife, Gu Liping, additionally were said to have received some 15 million yuan (~$2.3 million) from Guangsha Group, in exchange for political favours from Ling. Following his departure from the General Office, it was said that Ling gained access to privileged state secrets through his former subordinate Huo Ke, who was also indicted and tried.
In June 1975, Ling was admitted into the Communist Youth League (CYL) organization in Pinglu County, and was soon elevated to deputy secretary of the local CYL committee. He joined the Communist Party of China in June 1976. In December 1978, Ling was transferred to Communist Party's Yuncheng Committee in Shanxi. In 1979, Communist Youth League's central organization selected young cadres nationwide to work in the capital. Ling, at the age of 23, was recruited to work in the propaganda department of CYL Central Committee.
Ling is married to Gu Liping (谷丽萍), the former director-general of Youth Business China a non-profit program that aims to promote youth entrepreneurship that is headquartered in Beijing. In 2010 she was deputy director of the Ying Public Interest Foundation, a charity sponsored by the Communist Youth League. In that role she reportedly solicited donations for the foundation. Gu was thought to be placed in custody prior to the initiation of the investigation on Ling Jihua.
Ling was one of the highest-profile targets (next to Zhou Yongkang and Xu Caihou) of the anti-corruption campaign following the 18th Party Congress spearheaded by Party General secretary Xi Jinping and central discipline chief Wang Qishan. He was the second sitting "national leader"-level figure to be investigated by the party's anti-graft agency, after CPPCC Vice-Chairman Su Rong. Chinese-language media have linked Ling to a mysterious political network composed of prominent politicians and businesspeople with origins in Shanxi called the Xishan Society.