Friday, December 23, 2005

Silent Night

The Race is On, but this blog will take a break until the New Year. Note that there are a few upcoming dates worthy of note: candidates who filed for more than one judicial office in the recent filing period have until December 27th to decide which race they really want to run in. The next filing period for judicial seats begins on January 3 and runs through the 10th. And the cattle call for state candidate petition challenges begins on January 4th (though this blog should be back by then).

In the meantime, why not poke around the Sunshine Database? Amaze your friends at holiday parties with your encyclopedic knowledge of your public official’s campaign warchest. The Database analyzes the official semi-annual reports filed by candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial office, including the paper filers. If you’ve never looked, now’s your chance. Click here for financial profiles of all sitting House members, and here for all sitting Senators, and here for all incumbent statewides. (challengers coming after certification!) Click here for profiles of large donors, and here for the top twenty Career Patrons of the six statewides and the four tops. Go here to look up giving by a particular donor.

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fair Campaigns

It took a while to tabulate the results, but we can now say definitively that 441 candidates filed with the State Board of Elections for statewide, legislative or judicial office during the recent filing period. 155 of them, or 35%, also signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Legislative candidates led the way, with 47% signing the code, followed by statewide candidates at 35% and judicial candidates at 13%. To be fair, ICPR has been asking statewide and legislative candidates to sign the Code for the past four cycles; we haven’t ask judicial candidates to sign before, and they usually don’t return to campaigning like officers of the other two branches.

This is the highest percentage of statewide and legislative candidates who have signed the Code during the filing period in recent memory. Still, we hope more will sign the Code and conduct positive, informative, and educational campaigns. Candidates can sign the Code after filing, and ICPR will be writing to all candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial office to ask them to do so.

The State Board of Elections had added a search function to its website to help voters find out who has signed and who hasn’t. From the Campaign Disclosure page, click on Candidates, and then input an election year and click the box labeled “Yes – Fair Campaign”. And, as always, ICPR will be publishing the names on our website in late January.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Clarifying Statements (of Economic Interest)

The Trib reported over the weekend on income received by the former chair of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board from Bear Stearns, the company financing many of the deals before the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. The former Chair claimed that the payments were contractually due to him based on work he’d done over a decade ago, but the payments stopped as soon as the Trib started poking around (so much for the contract; seems they were contingent on something). The whole thing looks bad, and that’s what generates big splashy stories in the Sunday paper.

The Trib quoted me in the story; here’s the paragraph:

"This is a perfect example of why the law is inadequate," said David Morrison, deputy director of Campaign for Political Reform. " There ought to be an improvement so the public understands the difference between a $1 million interest and $1,000."

So, to clarify my comments, the “law” I was referring to is the law requiring Statements of Economic Interest. Statements required under state law are far less specific than those required of federal officeholders. The federal statements include a rough estimate of the value of holdings, which is why stories about federal officials will report they have interests worth between, say, $50,000 and $100,000. State forms require only that you list the name of an interest that is worth more than $5,000, or in some instances $1,200. The forms offer no way of determining the relative worth of different interests, no way of identifying the nature of the interest, and no real way of determining where conflicts of interest might lie.

That’s the point of requiring statements of economic interest. The vast majority of public officials in Illinois are part time. We expect that most elected officials will have conflicts of interest, and these statements are to help the public determine where those conflicts might lie; where, in short, our representatives might be most tempted to represent an interest other than ours.

Statements are now available on the web. But the still don’t tell you much about who filed them and where they may have conflicts, as this story makes clear.

Quint

As we noted last week, candidates for judicial office can file for as many openings as there are where they live. Come the March Primary, some precincts will have as many as 12 circuit court seats on the ballot, though candidates won’t be able to file for some of those seats until the January Filing Period. Candidates could file for as many as seven seats (nine, if you include the Appellate Court) if they lived in the right part of the state. No one did, but one, Margaret Ann Carrey of Chicago, filed for five seats.

All told, 147 candidates filed for 49 judicial seats, including 13 candidates who filed for two seats, 11 who filed for three, and two who filed for four seats. These multiple filers have done nothing wrong; they have taken advantage of the rules to find the most advantageous contest for the judicial post they want to hold. They have five business days from the end of filing to size up the fields and selectively withdraw until they are running in no more than one contest. As a Christmas present, they have until the close of business on Tuesday, December 27th to decide.

And don’t forget, the second round of filing is coming early next month – another 14 judicial offices are on the ballot, and candidates for those can file between January 3 and January 10. Not to mention the possibility that some incumbents who forgot to file for retention might challenge the open-ness of their seats, and the threat that the legislature will take away seats in the 19th and 22nd circuits. Judicial elections are worth watching.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Torts and Detriments

Campaign contributors gave over $9 million to the two candidates for Illinois’ last open Supreme Court seat. That dollar figure, more than six times the cost of the previous Supreme Court race, shattered national records, and was all the more striking because the race was in the state’s least populated Supreme Court district (only 566,000 ballots were cast there; contrast that with the 1 million ballots in the Second District, and 1.4 million in the First).

Most of that money came from groups that support or oppose tort reform. And as the Tribune points out this morning, it’s hard not to wonder if that money influences the Court's rulings.

The Trib quotes Ed Murnane, whose Civil Justice League gave over a million to support the winning candidate and who filed a brief in the Philip Morris case, as saying, "Karmeier's election changed the vote." And he may be right.

But even if Murnane’s candidate had lost, the same story could be written about the Philip Morris decision. Had the other guy won, observers would wonder if the millions in personal injury trial lawyer money had swayed the Court.

These questions will continue to come up whenever the Court rules on a high profile case involving personal injuries. You will not see these stories about divorce cases, or juvenile law, or wills and estates, or criminal convictions. That’s because divorce lawyers, and criminal attorneys, and the rest, played no significant role in the 2004 election. Tort cases make up a small share of the Court’s docket, but accounted for nearly all of the campaign money. Take away the millions of dollars in contributions from special interests, and the Court will have room to issue decisions without the criticism that campaign donors called the tune.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Judicial Filing Follies

Every square inch of Illinois is in one and only state legislative district, one and only one state Senate district, and one and only one Congressional district. Illinoisans have only one governor. Judicial offices work a little differently. You may live in a circuit with several openings, and maybe you also have one or more subcircuit seats to fill. You could be voting on as many as 11 circuit court openings, if you live in the right area (the 12th Subcircuit in Cook County). Some judicial aspirants see that not as confusion but as opportunity.

Judicial candidates can and regularly do file to run for more than one judicial seat. Some candidates this week filed for as many as four offices. These double-, triple-, and quadruple-dippers have a few extra days to decide which seat they really want to run for, and they will have to selectively withdraw until they are running in no more than one contest.

This year, judicial filing may be even more complicated than usual. There are three vacancies in the 19th Circuit and another two in the newly-created 22nd Circuit, for which a total of 8 candidates filed to date and maybe more to come before the filing deadline on Monday. (the 22nd Circuit was carved out of the 19th last year). The Board is accepting petitions for those seats but also notes that Speaker Madigan and Senate President Jones have told the State Board of Elections that “a bill will be called in January” which will eliminate these seats. There’s apparently a disagreement over staffing the new subcircuits in those circuits.

Judicial candidates who don’t find a race to their liking will get another crack at filing. The Board will hold a second, Special Judicial Filing Period from January 3-10. That filing period is for the dozen or so vacancies created too late to give candidates time to circulate petitions for the December period, but in time to put those seats on the March ballot. Don’t be surprised if some of those who file this week come back in January looking for just the right contest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Break out the Champaign

Disclosure is all we’ve got in Illinois -- that’s why it’s so important to defend against efforts to evade disclosure. The Champaign News-Gazette agrees, and added its pages to the growing chorus of voices who recognize that basic idea.

But don’t take my word for it – take their words:

“Illinois' campaign disclosure laws often have been described as the Wild West of election laws — there are few limits on who can give to what. But nearly all contributions and expenditures have to be disclosed. That was the problem with the Justice For All Foundation. It gave money to a subsidiary group but never disclosed all the donors for the lump sum, an apparent attempt to circumvent disclosure laws.”

They conclude:

“it's not like the executives at the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth & Prosperity were political neophytes. Whitley is head of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, is a former revenue department director and has been part of the Springfield scene for 30 years. The treasurer of the group is Greg Baise, head of the Illinois Manufacturers Association and a former state transportation secretary. The chairman of the group is Ron Gidwitz, a Republican candidate for
governor.

"These men, who all profess that they want clean government in Illinois, should know better. They need to come clean, disclose the sources of the money to (now) Justice Karmeier, and stop making a mockery out of Illinois' campaign disclosure laws.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Code Talkers

Part of the packet of materials candidates file when they run for office is the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. The Code is a voluntary, non-binding pledge created by the state legislature and administered by the State Board of Elections. It gives candidates an opportunity to forswear negative campaigning and other unsavory practices; it allows candidates to declare that they intend to take the high road on the campaign trail.

But not many candidates signed on to the Code when they filed their petitions. Of 421 petitions filed yesterday, only 148, or about a third, came with the Code. We hope this doesn’t mean a nasty campaign season is in our future.

Who didn’t sign the Code? It’s easier to say who did. Of the Democratic statewide filers, only Paul Mangieri turned one in. Of the Republican statewide hopefuls, only state Sen. Bill Brady and Jeremy Cole filed the Code. Jeremy Cole, you say? Yes, Jeremy Cole, of Canton, Illinois, who’s running for Lt.. Gov.

Campaigns are supposed to be a dialogue about where the state should go, with an emphasis on voter education and finding common ground. All too often, though, they can become painful to watch, bringing out the worst in candidates and turning voters away from the process. One sitting state rep, who filed petitions but not a Code, told the Tribune, "This is the friendliest you'll see the candidates be for a few months. It's like a prefight weigh-in." We hope he’s wrong, and that those filers who did not sign the Code will reconsider. Signing the Code is one sign that candidates want to change the tone of state politics. We hope more of them will do so.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Filling In Period

Today is the day people who want to run for office with a party endorsement in 2006 begin submitting their petitions for the March Primary. The Primary is where the parties fill in their official slates of candidates, and so the filing period is the time when party officials, and incumbent office holders, are most vulnerable. Anyone who wants to run – office holder, serious challenger, gadfly wacko – can file for office.

This is also the first movement in an elaborate dance that leads up to swearing-in. The first phase involves sizing the field. Incumbents tend to file early, both because first filers get the top ballot position but also because it may give them time to find other candidates, for their own race or others. Incumbents prefer to run unopposed, but some take a “more the merrier” attitude, especially in down-ticket races where the signature requirements are low and voters often have less information on candidates (more on that later).

After filing comes certification, by which time some candidates may be challenged and removed, some may have changed their minds and withdrawn, and some candidates who are ineligible may, by lack of challenge, be allowed to stay on the ballot. And then… Well, it’s a long dance.

Candidates can file through next Monday, the 19th. About half of all candidates will likely file today. Another third will file on the last day, angling for the last ballot position which, if you can’t be first, is presumed to be best. The rest will dribble in on the other four days. As of today, the race is truly on.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dash of Disclosure

Disclosure is all that Illinois has when it comes to campaign finance regulation – that’s why ICPR is so hawkish about violations. The State Board of Elections does a great job of disseminating the reports, and most political committees do a good job of reporting. But there are a small handful trying to evade disclosure.

Today’s Tribune editorial explains why the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity ought to come clean about the sources of their funds. They funneled over $400,000 to candidates in the 2004 elections without ever saying where the money came from. The editorial quotes Coalition co-founder Ron Gidwitz as saying that the Coalition promised donors that their names would not be disclosed.

Why would anyone make that promise, knowing that for over three decades Illinois has required disclosure for groups trying to sway elections? The 2006 elections are just around the corner. What the Coalition has done is display a road-map to funnel money around the disclosure reports. Voters deserve better.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

USA Today, Tomorrow Illinois

One of the great things about the Internet is that you no longer have to stay in a hotel to read USA Today; Google News will deliver it to your desktop. In the last week, the McPaper been on a roll, reminding those of us who spend most of our time in Illinois that other states are facing problems similar to ours, and some are finding solutions worthy of study.

In an editorial last week called “Political wining and dining bring ethical indigestion” about US Rep. Randy Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the paper wrote, “what stands out about these shenanigans is how cheaply some members of Congress and their aides are willing to compromise their integrity.” They conclude, “there’s something wrong with a system in which business as usual looks so much like bribery that it’s tough to tell the difference.”

And yesterday’s editorial, “Voters take back elections”, lauds the legislators of Connecticut who have boldly carved out fundraiser-free territory on the campaign trail. “While Congress wallows in the ethical swamp where money and politics meet, one more state just found a way out. Voters there will pay for campaigns, which might be the bargain of the century. They'll save countless dollars doled from public coffers to the favor seekers who fund campaigns now.”

What will be Illinois’ contribution to this national dialogue?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Stone Soup

For Thanksgiving my four-year-old’s daycare made Stone Soup. Everybody brought something that was thrown in the pot, along with a stone, and with a little help from the cook what they ate for lunch was not only hot and nutritious but came with a good story, too. Some kids brought carrots, some potatoes; we were charged with celery. The kids know what went into the pot, the teacher knows who brought what, and everybody knows who ate what. Soup is like that.

Grown ups, though, sometimes want to hide behind soup. “I don’t know what happened, it’s all soup to me.” Government critics sometimes complain about an alphabet soup of agencies. And now Doug Whitley of the Illinois Chamber claims that vegetable soup is too dense for him to understand.

Whitley wears many hats, and one of them is Board Member of the Coalition for Jobs Growth and Prosperity. The Coalition raised over $400K for political candidates in 2004 but they have steadfastly refused to own up to who gave it to them. $400 large is a lot of cash to just find lying around at the end of the day. But Whitley can’t be bothered to find out where it came from.

"It's impossible to legitimately report who gave the money that made it into the political process" and whose money didn't, Whitley said. "It's like vegetable soup," the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported over the weekend.

The problem here is the Coalition’s refusal to observe state law that requires segregated funds for political activities. Anyone who raises or spends $3,000 or more to spend in support of or opposition to candidates or ballot issues must form a political committee and register with the State Board of Elections. Those are the rules that just about everybody else follows (even Justice for All, the other group ICPR filed complaints against, admitted they should have disclosed their funding and did so). The FDA requires Campbell’s to list its ingredients, and the Illinois Chamber follows those rules, so Whitley must know how easily it can be done. But he wants the public to believe that the Coalition can’t seem to figure that out.

What Whitley describes is a loophole big enough to drive an election through. Illinois has no limits on political finance; we’re the only state with such a wide-open, Wild West style of campaign fundraising. All we have is disclosure. Illinois does a really good job of disclosure, but it can disclose only what the committees report.

Would that my four-year-old’s Thanksgiving lunch ended up with an untraceable $400K in the pot.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Following Connecticut's Lead (update)

A former governor in disgrace after a federal investigation into extensive corruption, mounting allegations of campaign finance abuses among state and local public officials, and a growing clamor from voters for reform; hard to tell if we’re talking about Illinois or Connecticut.

The big difference is that Connecticut has addressed its problems head-on with sweeping new campaign finance rules to limit the influence of large donors and – perhaps most importantly – allow candidates for public office to opt out of the private funding rat race entirely.

At 3 am last night, the Connecticut General Assembly gave final approval to a new plan that will ban giving by lobbyists and state contractors, create a public financing option for statewide and legislative candidates (judges are appointed in Connecticut), and regulate in-kind contributions. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has indicated she will sign the bill.

The bill isn’t perfect. Notably, it doesn’t take full effect until 2010, and some are concerned it doesn’t do enough to reign in the power of party leaders. It will likely be litigated.

But the Connecticut General Assembly has tackled this issue directly and with full public debate that stretched out over two months. This is the first time a legislature has voted to provide public financing for legislative candidates, meaning that incumbents have voted to help their challengers. Connecticut deserves applause for their handling of this issue. Let’s hope those similarities between our two states continue.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Owe, I owe...

Lest anyone think we’ve been picking on Rep. Calvin Giles, know that there are several sitting legislators and potential candidates who owe fines to the State Board of Elections and who might face ballot forfeiture if they don’t pay those fines by January 19th, when the State Board of Elections is due to certify the ballot for the primary election. It's not that Giles is alone, it's just that Giles owes more than all others combined.

Rep. Giles owes $144,000 in outstanding fines. But others are on the list, or could be by certification. Rep. Patricia Bailey owes $6,200 in fines. Rep. Mary Flowers owes $100 in fines. Three others -- Rep. Jack Franks, Rep. Robin Kelly, and Sen. Don Harmon -- have matters before the Board and may owe fines come January, but they still have pending appeals that might get them out of trouble. (Rep. Deborah Graham, who was on the list as of the last meeting of the Board, paid her fines the day of the meeting). (Rep. Bailey may have other problems)

One assumes that incumbents who face re-election next year will file to run, but the law applies to all candidates, incumbents and challengers alike. Nobody knows who will file next month, but two candidates who lost in 2004 are on the list: Derrick Prince, who took 25% of the Primary vote against Rep. Marlow Colvin, owes $3,250, and Thomas Morris, who garnered 23% in the General against Rep. Lou Lang, owes $1,800.

State law forbids the Board to certify to the ballot the name of any candidate who owes fines. Time will tell who files and is left on the list in January.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Respect for Voters

Mike Lawrence, who runs the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at SIU and was a panelist at our Most Powerful Voice in America conference earlier this month, offers some forward looking suggestions for improving media coverage of elections in his syndicated newspaper column. Imagine a campaign where voters get “blueprints instead of bromides and candidate comparisons instead of contorted commercials”. Where candidates seriously debate issues like taxes, education funding, drug addiction, economic development, and access to health care. Where simplistic pledges to do this or that are eschewed in favor of a thoughtful acknowledgment that all decisions have costs and consequences. How do we get that kind of campaign? Read the column.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Minow on the line

Posting will be lite this week due to the holiday, but if you missed The Most Powerful Voice in America last week, the Illinos Channel has posted the keynote event on-line. The conversation between Carol Marin and Newt Minow can be viewed in the comfort of your own computer.

Chicago area residents can watch the whole thing when CAN TV21 broadcasts the event on Saturday, December 3 at 8 pm. Or, tune in to CAN TV 19 on Thursday, December 8 at 9 am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Big Media Conference

TV viewers, reporters, academics, station staff and a few politicians gathered at the Gene Siskel Film Center yesterday to discuss The Most Powerful Voice in America: How Candidates and Voters Speak to Each Other Through the Media. Many thanks to all the people who helped make this event happen, including the speakers and panelists; Newt Minow and Carol Marin for creating an informative and entertaining keynote conversation, Thom Clark at the Community Media Workshop for logistics and the Stuart Family Foundation and the Joyce Foundation for underwriting some of the costs.

If you missed the event, it will be broadcast on CAN TV21 at 9 pm on December 3, and CAN TV19 at 9 am on December 8. The program will also be distributed through the Illinois Channel, and may be available for download (we’ll let you know when and where). And be sure to check out Carol Marin’s piece about the event in today’s Sun-Times.

But wait! There’s more! For a taste of what may be to come, read these on predictions of national spending on political ads next year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

First Past the Post - Updated!

With a flourish of his pen, Gov. Rod Blagojevich made HB 806, the ALLKIDS insurance plan, the first runner in our “Tortoise and Hare 2005” to become law. ALLKIDS (Henceforth PA 94-693) was filed on a Tuesday, passed the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday. Then it waited 19 days while the governor “reviewed” his proposal to see if it was worth signing. It was, and it is first past the post.

But ethics may yet move in the legislature. The GA reconvenes in January for the Spring session, which is scheduled to run through April 7. And there’s a late entrant on the ethics front: SB 595 was filed in the Senate the day before the veto session ended. So while the Veto session goes to the rabbit, hope springs eternal that the legislature will nudge the turtle along by considering substantive ethics and campaign finance improvements.

Update: ICPR's web guy put all the Tortoise and Hare images together to make an animated race. Note that ICPR is a non-profit, so this is extremely low-budget; probably shouldn't actually call it "animated", but it's fun just the same.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gavels and Ballot Boxes

Judges are the final stop in the line of checks and balances, and so they occupy a sensitive place in our form of government. Federal judges and judges in a dozen or so states are appointed. In most states, judges are elected. Whenever someone gets upset with the judiciary, you can be sure that how judges are chosen can also become sensitive.

Judges in Illinois are elected, and the trend in judicial races is making some people wonder if these elections aren’t a lot like a three ring circus. Last year saw candidates' supporters dumpster diving and mud-slinging. Special interest groups ran most of the ads, hijacking candidates’ public outreach efforts. And voters can seem arbitrary: Pennsylvania voters this week turned out their Chief Justice in outrage over a pay increase, which has nothing to say about the quality of his rulings and which he didn’t even vote for. As messy as elections are, isn’t there a better way?

Appointed systems are controversial in their own way: polls and elections show that voters are very reluctant to give up their right to choose judges. If there’s one rule voters take to heart, it’s Winston Churchill’s dictum that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Elections don’t have to be as messy as they have been, but the early signs are not good for Illinois’ 2006 races. It’s too soon to tell for certain whether the circus is coming back to town, but the clowns are beginning to line up. With a year to go before next General Election, let’s hope that judicial campaigns take 2004 as an object lesson, not a roadmap. Or maybe we should start this campaign with a discussion of alternatives to the current system of privately-funded campaigns?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Have Ya Ever Noticed - Career Patrons

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which runs this Blog, also runs the ilcampaign.org website. ICPR tries to help people better understand how campaign finance works, so this post will highlight some of the cool things on ilcampaign.org, ICPR’s website. Like the career patrons. ICPR was the first group in the country to put state-level campaign financial data into an on-line, searchable database, and ever since, we’ve been trying to make campaign finance easier to understand. One of the ways we do that is by posting career patrons. Career patrons are the top lifetime donors for the six elected statewide constitutional officers, and the four legislative leaders. If you want to know who has given the most to any of these public officials, not just last week or last year but since they first ran for office, click to the career patrons page.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Most Powerful Voice in America

ICPR is pleased to announce that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has agreed to join by video our media conference, “The Most Powerful Voice in America: How Candidates and Voters Speak to Each Other Through the Media”. If you’re interested in broadcasters, elections, or coverage of political issues, then you should join Carol Marin, former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, the Chicago Reporter's Alysia Tate, Salim Muwakkil, Mike Lawrence, and others at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Tuesday, November 15. Click here to register.

Who's Up, So That Cohen's Down

Our phone rings and we answer it. Yesterday, Eric Zorn of the Tribune called to ask for our take on the nomination of former CUB Director Martin Cohen to head the Illinois Commerce Commission. The Illinois Senate rejected Cohen’s nomination on a 28-22 vote, with nine voting present. The partisan split was fairly even: Democrats voted 14 in favor and 9 against with 9 voting present while Republicans voted 14 in favor and 13 against. The most striking split, it seems, was based on when senators were facing re-election. Forty-two senators will be on the ballot next year, either because their seat is up or because they’ve declared for higher office. Those voted 22 in favor and 14 against, with six voting present. Those not on the ballot next year voted six in favor and eight against, with three voting present. That deficit in the not-on-the-ballot-until-2008 crowd made a real difference in the outcome.

Here's a list of who's up when, and how they voted:

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Real Cost

A recent Tribune article explored conflicts of interest in one of America’s most sensitive public positions: restaurant critics. It seems some of our nation’s most prominent arbiters of fine dining accept free meals and other gratuities from the same restaurants they review and rave about. “The people who suffer are the readers,” said one journalism professor. “If they didn’t have to pay for the meal, you can’t be sure the reviewers’ loyalties truly lie with the reader.”

We couldn’t have said it better. And the same holds true in politics. When lobbyists put on the full-court press, with meals, gifts, trips, and campaign contributions, voters had better make sure that their public representatives are still representing the public. That’s why disclosure is so important – it lets voters know where to look for conflicts. And it’s also why every other state in America has some restrictions on campaign giving to candidates. Most limit giving across the board. Some also bar giving by regulated industries, state contractors, corporations and unions.

So when a lobbyist says to a public official, “I read about a great new restaurant; howzabout I buy you dinner?”, everybody had better pay attention.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Beatings will Continue Until Morale Improves

Legislative calendars have been released for the Spring Session. They’re available on line, here for the House and here for the Senate, but here’s a summary of the key dates. Both chambers have adopted substantially the same deadlines; exemptions are noted:

LRB Deadline: January 6
Session Starts: January 11
State of the State: January 18
Filing: January 20 for Senate, January 27 for House
Budget Address: February 15
Committee: February 17
Floor: March 3
Other Chamber Committee: March 24
Death March Begins: March 27
Other Chamber Floor: March 31
Sine Die: April 7

Hat Tip: Cap Fax


Other Important Dates for the Next Four Months:

Candidate Filing Period: December 12-19
Special Judicial Filing Period: January 3-10
Ballot Certification: January 19
Semi-Annual Reports for Latter Half of 2005 Due: January 31
A-1 Reports Due: Beginning February 20
Pre-Election Reports Due: March 7 (for the period January 1-February 19)
Primary Election: March 21

DeLay Shows the Way to Public Financing

In the ongoing saga of finding a judge to preside over the trial of indicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, we are faced with the ugly reality of how our government, including the justice system, is tainted by campaign giving.

Only days ago, DeLay’s attorneys argued that the judge selected to preside over DeLay’s trial for money laundering of campaign funds could not be fair-minded and impartial because the judge had previously contributed to Democratic campaigns.

In reply, state prosecutors essentially argued the exact same point about the Republican judge who had been appointed after Judge #1 was removed. Guess what? Judge #2 is off the case as well now.

So, here’s an idea. Remove the need for partisan alignment in judicial campaigns by providing a system of public financing. Think of the benefits – we can preserve the independence of the judiciary, encourage judicial candidates who couldn’t afford to run for office otherwise, and allow judges to get back to the business of hearing trials instead of scrounging for campaign cash.

And then guys like Tom DeLay will have to come up with another tactic to delay his day in court.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hurrah for the Faceless AP Editors!

The House passed SB 1879, as amended, this afternoon without opposition. It’s essentially an ethics clean up trailer, with changes and clarifications to several existing statutes. On balance, it’s a good bill, though it lacks anything really exciting. So our cheers to the House for passing this, and also to the insightful editor at the Associated Press who titled the story on this bill “House approves small changes to ethics laws”

Lobbyists from the State House

Our phone rings and we answer it. Yesterday we got a call from the Center for Public Integrity, a DC-based think tank, asking about lobbyists in Illinois. They did a report a while ago rating state lobbyist regulations, and I’d guess they’re getting ready to update it. Their call was to ask about former legislators who are now lobbyists. How many could we think of? A lot, it turns out. We surprised ourselves by thinking of about two dozen right off the bat, and we’re probably missing a few. Not to mention former staffers who have stopped wearing shoes with laces.

Everybody has right to earn a living, but the public has a right to be concerned about conflicts of interest, especially among people who hold offices of public trust but have begun to think about their next career. Elections are supposed to focus officials’ minds on what their constituents need, and once they’re no longer looking to the next election, because they lost a general or, worse, a primary, or just decided to retire, their minds can wander from the public good. Too, there’s reason for concern with staffers who leave on Friday and return as lobbyists on Monday: what strategies are they carrying with them, and what did they do before they left?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Damned if you do...

The dust up over the nomination of Marty Cohen to the Illinois Commerce Commission highlights problems with Illinois’ Lobbyist Registration Act. Who is supposed to register, and when, and what are the consequences of registering? Or not registering? The public has a clear right to know who is trying to influence government decision, especially when those influencers are paid to work their contacts. But Illinois’ lobbyist law is a mash-up of afterthought, hindsight, and boilerplate.

What is “lobbying”? Under the Act, it’s "any communication with an official” that’s intended to “influence[e] executive, legislative, or administrative action.” Sounds pretty clear? Maybe, maybe not; after all, we’re talking about laws here. The rub is in the definition of “official,” which is limited to the statewide executive officers, their chiefs of staff, cabinet members, and members of the legislature. Who’s not on the list? It’s not clear that agency heads are on the list. Or agency staff. Or even legislative staff.

And that’s just in the definition. There are also a host of exemptions to the Act, designed to free people from registering when all they want to do is exercise their constitutional right to petition government. Experts who are invited to testify are exempted. Lawyers representing clients are exempted, but are clients, when appearing at an administrative hearing, exempt?

Now consider the consequences. It used to be that many registered to cover themselves, even when they planned on doing very little actual lobbying. Now, registrants are barred from serving on boards and commissions. For all that the Senate Dems are upset that Marty wasn’t registered, if he had, he’d be unable to serve, which might fit their goals just fine. In other words, he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

The dust up over the Cohen nomination shows that Illinois needs to rework its Lobbyist Registration Act. The first step is with a clear definition of what actions trigger registration.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Vast wasteland or great conversation?

You can stay at home and watch mindless television on Tuesday, November 15th, or you can come downtown to hear Carol Marin and Newton Minow talk about television. Minow, of course, is the former FCC commissioner who told broadcasters in 1961 that they were responsible for making television a "vast wasteland." Think about it. If you miss Marin and Minow, here's what you'll find at the same time on your local stations: The Young and the Restless, the Days of Our Lives, All My Children, and the Tony Danza Show, and . . . believe it or not . . . I Love Lucy. Come hear Newton Minow and Carol Marin reflect on television today and the role of television in election campaigns. If you just can't stand the thought of a day without Tony Danza, try TIVO. And Lucy....well, Lucy should always be on TV someplace. Click here for registration information.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Power Markets

As an industry, electric utilities have contributed over $1.3 million to Illinois state candidates since January 1, 2003. Taking advantage of Illinois’ no-holds-barred campaign finance rules, these funds have come directly from the utilities as well as from directors, officers, employees, and corporate-sponsored PACs. In most states, such large corporate giving would be illegal.

As the Illinois legislature and regulatory authorities consider utility demands for rate hikes that could cost households hundreds more each year, utilities are fighting back with generous campaign giving, concentrating their largesse in powerful legislative leaders.

For a full analysis of how campaign giving might influence the debate over public policy, see ICPR’s newest Issue Briefing, Power Markets: How the Legislature Determines Who Can Sell Electricity (and How!)

Reformers Praise Illinois State Board of Elections

Our State Board of Elections was lauded for its campaign disclosure system by the California Voter Foundation. They looked at on-line reporting systems, campaign finance laws, accessibility and technical usability across all 50 states and ranked Illinois 5th overall. Actually, they said our electronic filing program was the best in the nation, but faults in our disclosure law pulled our ranking down. We agree that the SBE website is terrific, and with the 48-hour reports in the final days before an election, anyone with Internet access can get virtually real-time reports on who's giving how much to which candidates. Of course, part of why Illinois make such as effort in disclosure is because, unlike nearly every other state, we have no limits on how much anyone or anything can give to anybody. But kudos to the State Board on a job well done.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Updating Aesop


We all know that when the tortoise and the hare decided to race, old slow and steady crossed the finish line first. But real life isn’t always so predictable. Take ethics reform. Proposals have been bouncing around the Capitol since last Spring, but haven't moved yet. Meanwhile, the governor's new ALLKIDS plan is also seeking legislative attention. Which will pass first?

Inspired by our General Assembly, ICPR is proud to present The Tortoise and the Hare: 2005. Check back to ICPR's homepage to see who wins this race.

Civic Footprint

Our old friends at the Center for Neighborhood Technology have a new website to show off, and it's worth checking out. The Civic Footprint site uses mapping software to help voters understand how they fit into local, state, and federal offices. Right now, the site works only for Cook County, but I think they plan to expand it outward. Plug in your address and the site will give you a map of your house with overlapping district boundaries for state reps and senators, members of congress, County Board, partisan committeemembers, and other offices. If you've ever wondered who speaks for you at all of these different levels, or why you and your neighbor share a State Rep but not a County Board member, go see for yourself.

Where's Rep. Giles?

In 2004, ICPR filed its first ever complaints with the State Board of Elections, noting that two political committees controlled by State Rep. Calvin Giles had failed to file required financial disclosure reports in over a year. Before we filed the complaints, we urged Giles to get his reports in, and we later found out that others had, too. But only after we made an administrative case out of it did Giles come through.

It was with some pride that we noted Giles filed on time last August. But now comes word that Giles is once again shirking. His long refusal to tell anybody how he funded his campaign – even as he voted for bills that strengthened campaign disclosure – resulted in severe financial penalties. Giles now owes $140K in fines, more than he had in his fund last June 30. And just like before, he’s stopped answering requests that he pay his fines – fines that he voted for as a legislator.

Whatever this sorry tale says about Rep. Giles, in some ways it says more about the State Board of Elections, whose statutory authority to enforce its own rulings is patchy. While knocking candidates off the ballot for non-payment may or may not be constitutional, surely there must be a way to put some teeth in that bulldog.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Candidate’s New Clothes

Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax (not the website but the one you have to pay for) has some good news on the ethics front: the governor and his campaign co-chairs are talking about an ethics bill for Veto. Many were shocked that his system-rocking bill, filed last May and the result of weeks of talks and planning, was sitting in drydock while his brand new AllKids plan was set to cruise. Then Carol Marin writes a column in the Sun-Times. And Rep. John Fritchey, Comptroller Dan Hynes, and us reformers chime in. And Phil Ponce interviewed the governor on Chicago Tonight about his ethics plans. The next thing you know, Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones are towing that ethics skiff toward the water. (An aside: is anybody else tired of the “train and station” metaphors?). Veto is October 25-27 and November 2-4, and as they say, anything’s possible when the legislature is in session.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More, please

Once in power, some elected officials resent the idea that Illinois politics needs to be reformed. But a new poll in today’s Tribune shows that voters think the job isn’t done, and that the state needs more serious reforms to earn their trust again. And with the long spate of headlines, at the local, state, and national levels, who can blame them? Even sausage makers have cleanliness standards. Public office should be the same.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Who Are the Low Numbers?


Driving to work this morning I noticed that the black Mercedes in front of me had a three-digit plate -- 240-something – and I got to wondering, does the owner know somebody? Scott Fawell made it pretty clear that it was near impossible for drivers to get low-numbered plates without personally knowing Fawell or Ryan, or both, when Ryan was Secretary of State. It’s been seven years since they had control over those plates, but they had control for eight years; how many people who got low digits because their “lifetimes” with Citizens for Ryan were high enough are still driving around with them? Sure, some made the transition to new bosses, but how many have low plates but expired clout?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Newton Minow to Speak at ICPR Media Conference: November 15

ICPR invites you to join Carol Marin, Prof. Ken Goldstein, Mike Lawrence, Paul Taylor, and attorney, author and former FCC Chairman Newton Minow for a discussion of the role of broadcast news in covering elections and candidates. “The Most Powerful Voice in America: How Candidates and Voters Speak to Each Other Through the Media” is a forum examining how broadcasters cover candidates and what viewers want, with input from media observers, academics and seasoned political veterans. Registration is required; to sign up, click here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Daily Grind

At least four stories ran today on Scott Fawell's testimony yesterday and they all ran with the same focus: Ryan paid campaign funds to his relatives for little or no work. This may have been the main focus of the prosecution's argument, but only one paper (read them all to see which one) went on to say what was really wrong with the SoS office.

Up until 1998, there was no law against spending campaign funds on personal use. It's still legal to hire relatives. There has long been a law requiring campaigns to pay "fair market value" for expenditures, but that has usually been understood to mean that campaigns can't pay below market, getting an under-the-table in-kind contribution, rather than over paying, which is what Fawell suggests Citizens for Ryan was doing.

Campaigns have long been used as personal piggy banks. Some used their funds to pay for retirement home, parking tickets, even a funeral. And all of it was legal (provided they reported it to the IRS as income). Some of it still is; under circumstances like those, the late Sen. Paul Simon used to compare campaign contributions with legalized bribery. The misuse of campaign funds is shocking and offensive, but it's not the only thing Fawell discussed yesterday.

What also came out was how the pressure on state workers to raise campaign funds cheated taxpayers. Employees of the Secretary of State's office were expected to sell fundraising tickets -- or buy them. Previous Safe Road trials have shown that some employees took bribes to get enough cash to buy the tickets, and as a result licensed drivers who were unsafe at any speed. Yesterday's testimony noted that other employees took to looting the petty cash --- stealing money from the state -- to cover their ticket allotment. Their behavior is shameful, but not nearly as bad as the supervisors who made clear that promotions and raises depended not on job performance but on fundraising prowess.

Illinois has made some progress. Soliciting state employees on the job is now a crime. What insiders call "the ask" is sufficient to justify a criminal charge, even if no funds change hands. Fawell's testimony yesterday showed how deeply corrupted the operation had become. And while paying relatives with campaign funds for no-show work is unseemly, let's not lose sight of the big picture: under Ryan, the SoS office was thoroughly perverted for political purposes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Maybe it grows on trees?

Media stories report that the George Ryan Legal Defense Fund has finally filed a report describing its finances. The report covers the period December 9, 2004-August 4, 2005, during which time the fund raised $240K and spent $369K. The report does not describe when the fund raised at least another $233K, nor if it spent any funds prior to December, 2004.

During the 2001-2002 reporting cycle, Citizens for George Ryan became a de facto legal defense fund, spending at least $1.8M on legal fees. That’s $78K a month; substantially more than the $53K a month the legal defense fund was spending, but then again, the PAC was paying legal defense for more than just George Ryan: they retained multiple law firms to cover several staffers who were then under investigation.

Ryan’s defense team has made much of his humble origins and modest lifestyle. His co-defendant even bragged about how cheap his suit cost. But let’s not forget that this is a guy who can summon large amounts of money when he wants to. Even out of office. And we have no idea how much of this cash came from former contractors, or others with less-than-pure motives. Until they release the names, we’ll never know.

In the meantime, the Fund is still raising money through this website. If it’s the site that’s bringing in so much cash, maybe ICPR should hire their webdesigners.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Not Over Yet

The Fifth District’s Supreme Court race is supposed to be over. Lloyd Karmeier won and has served on the Court since last December. But the fallout from the race continues. Gordon Maag, who lost both the Supreme Court race and his bid for retention on the Appellate Court, has filed a second defamation suit, this time in federal court. According to the Madison and St. Clair Record, Maag has filed suit against the Chicagoland, Illinois, and U.S. Chambers of Commerce; the Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity; the Illinois Manufacturing Association, the Illinois Civil Justice League, the Illinois Business Roundtable, and the American Tort Reform Association. And their leaders, in their official capacities and individually. Maag is once again seeking $110 million in damages. The Record notes that Maag’s first defamation suit, in state court, was thrown out in June. The Record does not note that the U.S. Chamber, a named defendant in the suit, is a major investor in the Record.

What a circus… Imagine if every losing candidate took their case to court.

This is just the latest example of why Illinois should be looking to change the way judicial elections are conducted, including allowing candidates to opt out of the special interest rat race by opting in to a public financing program.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Richard Parillo and the Legal Defense Fund

The Tribune's coverage of the George Ryan/Larry Warner trial reports today on a trip to a 1995 Chicago Bulls playoff game:

"In addition to the casino trips, Fawell testified about a "bonzai" junket to a May 1995 Chicago Bulls playoff game in Orlando. Ryan, Fawell, Warner and several others took a quick trip to Walt Disney World and the Bulls game on a plane owned by Ryan's longtime supporter, insurance company owner Richard Parillo."

The story describes Parillo as a "longtime supporter" and an "insurance company owner" but does not identify him as the head of George Ryan's legal defense fund. Ryan announced the creation of a legal defense fund with a press release from the governor's office in 2002. And when ICPR pressed Ryan to make the fund abide by the same disclosure rules that cover campaign funds, we received a reply not from Ryan but from Richard Parillo. Click here to read his reply.

Note that, despite Ryan's promises to release the names of donors by December 1, 2002 (and annually thereafter) and Parillo's promise to run the trust "with the utmost integrity", the names of donors have never been released.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform DeLay-ed

The indictment against Congressional Republican Leader Tom DeLay is a serious attack on political money laundering. To be clear, the charges will not be easy to prove, either in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. The allegations suggest that money which could not legally be spent on elections in Texas was instead funneled through a series of other political groups, each of which could legally take the funds, until it was no longer apparent that the money that Texas state candidates were handed was, in fact, illegal money.

While DeLay’s role in this remains a little unclear, what the PACs did is not new. ICPR found similar behavior here in Illinois, as both state parties washed federal soft money through their accounts and back into the fed’s hard money PACs. What makes these transactions criminal is the allegation that they were all designed and intended to evade Texas’ ban on giving by corporations. The prosecutor will likely try to show that none of the PACs involved would have given as they did without the first corporate checks at the start of the chain; that the $190,000 that arrived in October, 2002, from the RNC in the PACs of Texas state candidates was the same $190,000 in corporate money that, though forbidden to Texas state candidates, was raised in September, 2002, and transferred to the RNC; and that DeLay and his associates orchestrated these transactions.

Call it laundering, call it giving in the name of another, call it sham transactions; corporate giving is against the law in Texas. But not in Illinois. Illinois has no limits, no restrictions, no bans on anyone, anybody, or anything that has money to give to politicians. Corporations, unions, associations, trusts, and other non-persons can give as much as want, and candidates can take as much as they can get, under Illinois’ free-wheeling campaign finance rules. Illinois’ politicians are doing many of the same things that Texans are alleged to be doing. The difference is that Texas has made corporate giving illegal, while Illinois continues to tolerate unrestricted giving by special interests.

It’s time for Illinois to take a serious look at campaign finance.

Following Connecticut's Lead

In some ways, Connecticut’s woes mirror our own. Gov. John Rowland was alleged to have taken bribes and other incentives from state contractors in exchange for favorable reviews and additional contracts. When charged with criminal violations of state law, he resigned from office.

Now his successor, Gov. Jodi Rell, is doing something about it. Noting a guilty plea from a state senator to corruption charges and also the trial of our own former Gov. George Ryan, Gov. Rell has called a special session of the Connecticut General Assembly to consider campaign finance reforms. They re-convene in October for the express purpose of considering public financing, limits on contactor giving, and bans on fundraising by lobbyists.

Campaign finance reform gets a special session in Connecticut in response to a handful of convictions. Meanwhile, Illinois has seen over 70 Safe Road convictions, over three dozen Hired Truck and other Chicago convictions, and countless other credible accusations against sitting state and local officials.

When will Illinois finally address problems with our campaign finance system?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shrink the Contractors

Observers in Illinois will be sadly familiar with the broad outlines of Ohio’s Coingate scandal: large campaign contributors are rewarded with lucrative public contracts despite lack of qualifications, shoddy performance or the fact that the underlying work isn’t needed in the first place. In Illinois, this scenario has played out in Chicago’s Hired Truck program and the state’s powerwashing fiasco. In Ohio, a large donor was entrusted with state investments through the Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC), which he used to buy highly speculative rare coins, losing tens of millions in the process. Which goes to show that corruption isn’t just an Illinois phenomenon.

What will surprise Illinois observers is the speed with which Ohio has moved to address the problem. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the BWC has imposed contribution limits of $250 on all of its contractors. The limits apply to giving to state and local committees, candidates and parties, and special interest PACs. Here in Illinois, the Mayor of Chicago, the state Comptroller and some other statewide officials have restricted giving by contractors to their own PACs, but so far, the governor and the legislature have not moved to enact anything nearly so broad as the Ohio limits.

When will Illinois limit the influence of big donors?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The $156,423.70 Question

George Ryan’s defense team have argued in public that the former governor received no payment for any of the illicit activities he allegedly conducted while in public office. But until they explain how his campaign fund “found” $157K in the last half of 2000, we can’t really be sure.

In July, 2001, Citizens for George Ryan filed an amendment to its campaign disclosure report for the second half of 2000 showing a new, surprise receipt of $156,423.70 . The PAC claimed this was an “adjustment to bank account”. The cash was held at North Community Bank, where the PAC had not previously reported holding funds. Ryan co-defendant Larry Warner was, at the time, a director of North Community Bank.

Will either Ryan or Warner give a full accounting of the source of these funds?

Want to see the report itself? Here’s the link:

http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/D2Semi.aspx?id=217079

And here's the page...


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Playin downstate

The Peoria Journa-Star ran a strong editorial this morning. Anyone wondering where reform is should look at HB 743, HB 4073, SB 39, or SB 1822. The solutions are there; the problem is as much a lack of will as anything else.


[text of the ediorial]

New scandal a new distraction

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We want to believe Gov. Rod Blagojevich when he says he had "no involvement whatsoever in anything surrounding the alleged corruption at the teachers' retirement system, and nobody close to me does either."

Yet . . .

History has taught Illinoisans to be skeptical. Two former governors served prison time in the last 30 years and a third, George Ryan, went on trial Monday for official misconduct. Seventy-three state workers and their friends have been convicted in Operation Safe Road, the bribes-for-drivers-licenses inquiry that mushroomed into a full-scale investigation of various irregularities during Ryan's tenures as secretary of state and governor. Now two men, one a former chief fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, have pleaded guilty in the burgeoning TRS scandal. It would be fair to say that, where politics are concerned, Illinois has long fostered a bipartisan culture of corruption.

That does not mean Blagojevich ever took part in it or that he should in any way be held accountable for the sins of others. Indeed, maybe this governor really is different. Maybe he really didn't have anything to do with an alleged scheme that traded consulting fees for pension fund business, payments that ultimately rewarded a "high-ranking public official," according to plea agreements in federal court. Maybe two of Blagojevich's top fundraisers had nothing to do with the scam, though they've reportedly been identified in court documents. And maybe "Public Official A" - the unnamed state official referred to in the plea agreement - is someone else.

Yet . . .

Blagojevich has amassed the largest campaign war chest of any governor in the state's history, raising $14 million, a good deal of it from people who do business with the state. The man who ran for governor as a reformer promising to change "business as usual" in Springfield has headed an administration plagued by state and federal inquiries. Those have involved allegations of pay-to-play politics, improprieties at the state agency that oversees hospital construction, and trading state appointments for campaign cash. Political allies have gotten state jobs. Blagojevich brought his ethics reforms forward too late in the last legislative session for them to have much chance of passing.

The governor hasn't been charged with anything, says he hasn't been subpoenaed in regard to the TRS probe and emphatically maintains that the allegation "does not describe how we do things." No prosecutor has publicly suggested he personally committed any wrongdoing. At this juncture, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Still, this is disconcerting in a state that has endured years of investigations and convictions, apparently with no end in sight. It's also a further distraction in a state that has no shortage of public policy issues requiring attention. In the land of Honest Abe, this stuff just has to stop. With one of the most aggressive U.S. attorneys this state has ever had in Patrick Fitzgerald, it's a wonder it hasn't already.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pattern?

Joseph Cari and Steven Loren, who yesterday entered into plea agreements admitting to steering state contracts for political purposes, had both previously made political contributions themselves to Illinois candidates. Steven Loren gave a total of $4,800, mostly to Gov. Blagojevich ($4,500) and the remainder to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Joseph Cari gave $3,400, including $200 to former Chicago Bull Bob Love for his failed aldermanic effort, $250 to Chicago Clerk of Court Dorothy Brown, and $250 to Andrew Boron, who lost a primary to current State Rep. Ken Dunkin. But the biggest recipient of Cari’s giving was former Calumet City Mayor Jerry Genova, who got $2,700 between 1998 and 2001, when he was convicted of racketeering, theft of funds, and mail fraud charges.

Whiplash

Political observers risk whiplash if they try to follow both the George Ryan trial and the filings implicating our current governor related to the Stuart Levine indictment, so fast have the stories been hitting. We recently posted to our website a new page of background material for the George Ryan trial, including a timeline and data on Ryan’s campaign fund. If you’re looking for the Levine findings, here they are:

Steven Loren Plea Agreement (especially pages 3-8)

Joseph Cari Plea Agreement (especially pages 3-7)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Med Mal Law Signing

Governor Blagojevich intends today to sign legislation addressing medical malpractice. The new law was hotly contested by personal injury trial lawyers on one side and hospitals and doctors on the other. Both sides have battled over this issue in the past, and both sides are significant donors to Illinois politicians. From January 1, 2003 through June 30, 2005 (including the last election cycle and the most recent figures available) supporters of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association have given at least $4.5 million to state politicians in Illinois, while hospitals and doctors have given at least $4.2 million.

The lion’s share of this money went to the 2004 Supreme Court election, held in the Fifth District, which turned on concerns that high malpractice premiums are forcing doctors to leave the state. The governor will be signing the new law at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Alton, Illinois, which is located in the Fifth District.

Since the start of 2005, the Trial Lawyers have contributed about $250K and hospitals and doctors have given about $780K. Expect both sides to continue fighting these issues, and giving politically, at these astronomical levels for the foreseeable future.

For ICPR's medical malpractice issue briefing released last May, click here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

New Sunshine

The Sunshine Database is now updated through the first half of 2005. ICPR and the Sunshine Project have taken campaign disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections and produced easy-to-understand analyses. Use the Sunshine Database for:


Plus, find receipts and expenditures for legislators, statewide constitutionals, caucus PACs, state parties and announced candidates for governor.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lobbyists Everywhere

The Center for Public Integrity recently released a national report on lobbyists. The report compares the 50 states for lobbyist spending, and many in Illinois have expressed surprise that our state is not in the top ten. In fact, Illinois may be in the Top Ten, but different states have different reporting requirements, making comparisons between states very difficult Lobbying in Illinois is just as much a big business as it is elsewhere. Lobbyist disclosure in Illinois, however, is abysmal.

Illinois requires lobbyists to report spending on meals and gifts to public officials and some travel expenses. That’s about all. Most other states and the federal government require lobbyists to disclose far more, including their total spending, total billing to clients, and spending on each issue they lobby. Illinois’ numbers may look low, but that has far more to do with what’s revealed than with what the true total spending for lobbying is in Illinois.

Recent changes in Illinois also worked to slash the numbers. The 2003 Ethics Act also barred lobbyists from serving on boards and commissions, leading many lobbyists to cancel their registration. The number of lobbyists fell in 2004, and reporting meal and gift expenses fell with it. Nor is there any enforcement mechanism to ensure that people who should register actually do. While the Secretary of State’s Index Department takes the paperwork, enforcement is ambiguous; theoretically, it would take a criminal complaint by a state’s attorney to compel filing by a recalcitrant lobbyist.

So worry not. Illinois is still Illinois. It's not that the numbers are low; it's that there are no numbers to count.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Second Indictment (in as many days)

Those of you fully caught up on your legal thrillers will want to download the latest release from Patrick Fitzgerald. Remember, it's just allegations, but if you read it as a story with a plot, it's also a pretty good read. Click here to get the text of U.S. v McMayon et al, which deals with the Chicago Park District.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Levine Indicted Again, more to come

U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has issued two indictments in as many days alleging official corruption in Illinois. Here is yesterday's indictment against Stuart Levine and others for actions relating to the Teachers Retirement System:

Teachers Retirement System Indictment 8/3/05

And today he announced indictments against former employees of the City of Chicago for shakedowns and improper gifts relating to Millenium Park and other Park District projects. That indictment isn't yet available (really, who issues indictments these days without first making the pdf?), but we'll post it as soon as it's available.

And in a completely unrelated move, PRNewswire has just announced a seminar on "Ethics/Law/Crisis Management" The seminar, to be held in Chicago, is actually focused on confidential sources, but also promises to help PR professionals understand "how ethics apply in crisis management" RSVP by August 15, if you're interested; no fair responding on behalf of your least favorite pol.

Monday, August 01, 2005

House Republicans File

The House Republicans filed timely. The Illinois House Victory Fund, a kind of adjunct to the HRO, filed first, showing $8.5K in, $45 out (that rounds to -0- in thousands) and $8.5K available. Funds came from Saviano. Beaubien, and McDonalds (the restaurant).

Citizens to Elect Tom Cross reported $463K in, $330K out and $612K available. Big donors include Comcast and Raceway Associates (both at $15K) and the Manufacturers PAC at $11.5K.

The House Republican Organization shows $396K in, $307K out and $90K available. Tom Cross was the biggest donor.

Giles Files, Chavez doesn't

Citizens for Calvin L Giles filed this evening in a timely manner, showing $27K in, $8K out and $79K on hand. All receipts were listed as individual contributions, including those from PACs, but he gets points for filing on time.

State Rep. Michelle Chavez (D-Cicero), who won a contested primary and general election last fall without, apparently, raising or spending $3,000 on her behalf, has still not yet formed a committee. Perhaps she retains the support of the Cicero Good Government Group, which also suported her opponent in the 2004 general. They reported $312K in, $423K out and $8K available. Most of their efforts this past Spring were devoted to the unsuccessful effort to retaiin Ramiro Gonzalez as the Cicero Town President.

Still waiting for the House Republican Organization, Citizens to Elect Tom Cross, and the Illinois House Victory Fund.

Wrap Up

Citizens for Jesse White: The Secretary of State shows $522K in, $202K out and $1.5 M available. His top donor remains Robert Lozins, formerly listed as the head of Artmark and now described as “retired”. The committee also shows $30K from the operating engineers and $15K from the currency exchanges.

Citizens for Rick Winkel: The Champaign Republican Senator shows $67K in, $66K out and $18K available. Receipts include at $25K loan from Frank Watson, and expenditures include $25K to pay off that loan.

Friends of Lou Jones: $20K in, $27K out and $1.5K left in the bank.

Friends of Lee Daniels: the former Speaker’s committee shows $10K in, $184K out and $349K left. Expenditures include $22K in loans to the House Republican Campaign Committee, which accounted for all of the former caucus PAC’s receipts. HRCC showed $22K in expenditures, nearly all of it for legal expenses. HRCC now owes Friends of Lee $421K and appears to have evolved into a de facto legal defense fund.

Friends of Terry Link: The Lake County Democrat shows $108K in, $54K out and $90K available. Expenses include a $10K loan to Citizens for Sharon Elman.

Citizens for Skoien, State Committee: The Cook County Republican leader took in $366.13, spent $918.50 and left $266.10 available. He’d better hope Daley’s not convicted; he’s got a ways to go to hit $10K to pay that bounty. UPDATE: The Cook County Republican Central Committee filed; they show $68K in, $68K out, and $3K available. They also owe $53K in debts, mostly to Skoien ($26K0, Patricia Sutarik ($15K) and Thomas Swiss ($26K of their receipts consisted of loans).

Citizens for Edward Acevedo: The Chicago Democrat shows $76K in, $54K out, and $26K available. Expenditures include $10,500 in loans to himself.

Still no sign of the House Republicans…

Lisa Madigan Files

The Attorney General's report came in at 7:14. She shows $157K in, $44K out and $917K available. Biggest donors appear to be Development Specialists, who also gave to the governor, and Fred Eychaner, both at $25K; no one else appears to have given more than $5K during this reporting period. It appears that about a third of the funds came from donors who gave $10K or more, though that figure may change as we complete a more thorough review of donors to the committee.

Topinka Files

The State Treasurer's reports came in at 6:43. She shows $969K in, $187K out and $1.4M available. Top donors appear to include the James Pritzker Political Participation Fund at $115K, Billian Entertainment of Palo Alto, California, at $50K, and the Illinois Hospital Assn at $25K.

It appears that less than a third of the funds came from donors who gave $10K or more, though that figure may change if any donors gave large amounts previously.

Blago's In

The Governor's PAC filed at 6:03; he shows $10.4M in, $665K out and $14.4M available. More as we chew through this.

And I didn't mention the $38K in in-kinds.

It's early, but it looks like the biggest donors are:

SEIU - $250K
Pipe Trades/Pipe Fitters/Sprinkler Fitters: $150K
Clifford Law Offices: $100K
Illinois Hospital Assn: $50K
IL Council on Long Term Care: $50K
Laborers: $50K
Cable TV Assn: $40K (plus $35K from Comcast)
SBC :$30K (half from corporate and half from the PAC)
And many, many at the $25K level. All told, he's showing 1,115 donors. And that's just among the itemized givers.

We'll have to look at all the donors more closely, but at first blush it appears that donors giving $10K or more account for under a third of the total, which is lower than this committee has run in the past. Of course, that figure considers only donors within the semi-annual report; some smaller donors in this report may have given previously, which would upgrade their status.

Biggest expenditures include $100K to MBB Construction and another $71K to Castle Construction, both of which are linked to Chris Kelly and were big donors to the governor's first election campaign.

Move Illinois Forward also filed; they show $132.50 in (no typo), $41k out and $31K available. The fund sent $20K to Rockford Mayor Doug Scott for his failed re-election campaign.

Due Day, Part Deux

Ron Gidwitz for Governor: The D2 is in, and ... it shows only a little more than his website posting. He reports $3M in, $322K out and $2.6M available. We listed his biggest donors earlier, on July 18 (scroll down)

Friends of Dan Hynes: The Comptroller reports $303K in, $96K out and $367K available. Lots of labor money. Lots. Many unions, following the teachers' lead, are getting used to writing checks with five digits to the left of the decimal point.

Illinois Republican Party: Mystery Revealed! Earlier we noted that Ernst for Senate showed over $70K in in-kinds from the IRP and the RSSCC, which made little sense as Ernst couldn’t run again for Senate for several years. IRP has filed (so has RSSCC) and the payments make a little more sense. IRP reported $482K in, $471K out and $25K left. Expenditures included the $58K for Ernst plus nearly $50K for Gary Dahl, another $50K for Pamela Althoff, $16K for Daniel Bryant (who lost to Susan Garrett) and $16K for Summers for Senate (who lost to Forby). It looks like the IRP ran out of money and couldn’t pay its bills until this spring. Indeed, $178K of their Spring 2005 receipts were from RSSCC, which also made payments to many of the same campaigns

Democratic Party of Illinois: If IRP was digging out of debt, DPI wasn’t gaining much ground. They report $16K in, $63K out, and $57K available. The Chairman’s accounts, though, tell a different story. Friends of Michael J. Madigan reported $681K in, just $301K out and $961k available.

Republican State Senate Campaign Committee: Took in $651K, spent $478K (including $178K to IRP; see above) and ended up with $391K available.

Oberweis for Illinois: The ice cream magnate seems to have more flavors than donors. He reports $783K in, of which $680K was loans from himself. He spent $98K and left $685K available,

Citizens for Skoien, State Committee: The Cook County Republican leader took in$366.13, spent $918.50 and left $266.10 available. He’d better hope Daley’s not convicted; he’s got a ways to go to hit $10K to pay the bounty.

Due Day

Citizens for Emil Jones: The Senate President reports $737K in, $305K out and $1.6M available. The caucus PAC, Illinois Senate Democratic Fund, shows $530K in, $257K out and $374K available. For those of you keeping track, Citizens for Frank Watson filed over the weekend, but the Republican caucus PAC hasn’t shown up yet.

Taxpayers for Quinn (Patrick): the Lieutenant Governor shows $77K in (a lot for the Lt. Gov), $59K out and $28K available.

Citizens for Dave Sullivan: The Republican Senator reports $92K in, $81K out and $65K available. His seat is on the 2006 ballot, but he has suggested that he will not run again.

Friends for Froehlich: The House Republican shows just $150 in receipts, $1K out and $14K available.

Citizens for Jim Edgar: He may not be running for office, but he’s still got more in his fund that many of the Republicans who are running. He shows $21K in (all of it interest on his existing balance), $42K out and $1.1M available. FWIW, his June 30, 1998 balance was $2.8M, so he’s well under his personal use limit.

Citizens for John Cullerton: the Democratic Senator shows $34K in, $77K out and just $10K available. His seat is up in 2006.

Meeks for Senate: The lone Independent is lonely, indeed. He shows no receipts, only $160 in expenses, and $71K available. His seat is up in 2006.

Citizens for Susan Garrett: The north suburban Senate Democrat reports a very patriotic $1,775 in receipts, $12K in expenses, and just $10K available. Her seat is not up in 2006.

Citizens for Capparelli: The former Dean has two committees, and I can’t remember which was for legislative races and which was for committeeman races. Citizens for… shows $4K in, $30K out and $675K available. Friends of... shows $30K in (the same $30K that Citizens transferred out), $38K expended and $12K available.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Chicken for the Sunday Carving

Still waiting for more of the statewides to file, but here are some interesting bits that have come in this weekend:

Ernst for Senate: Tom Ernst lost to John Sullivan, but the race may not be over. His committee shows –0- in, -0- out and $334.01 available. But he also shows $74K in in-kind contributions, including $58K from the Illinois Republican Party and the balance from the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee. The in-kinds included direct mail, staff, and phone banks; campaign stuff, except that there was no campaign (Sullivan's not up again until 2008, right?). It could be leftovers from last fall, but the bulk of the money came in March, and some came as late as June.

Citizens to Re-elect William “Bill” Shaw: The former state senator shows $66K in, $78K out and $7K available. He shows an astonishing $42K in non-itemized expenditures, suggesting small payments to nearly 300 vendors. His brother’s PAC, Citizens to Elect Robert Shaw, likewise shows significant non-itemized expenditures ($23K). Both brothers also report payment of “fees” to the State Board of Elections: $611 for Bill, $1,955 for Robert.

Friends of Don Harmon: The Oak Park senator has a lot of friends, indeed. He shows $170K in, just $50K out and a net available of $206K.

Majority Leader’s Fund: Don’t let the name fool you; this is not a major PAC. It shows $20 in receipts, $35 in expenditures, and $16K available. That’s no typo: just $20.00 in receipts and just $35.00 in expenditures. The Majority Leader’s Other Fund, better known as Barbara Flynn Currie for State Representative Committee, showed a little more action: $11K in, $20K out and $245K available.

Mike Boland Campaign: The Quad Cities rep shows$24K in, $9K out and $126K available, should he decide to run for re-election or a higher office.

Eight is Enough: This PAC, chaired by the Lt. Gov, shows –0- in receipts, -0- in expenditures, and $26 available. Again, not a typo. It also carried $92K in outstanding loans, mostly to the Lt. Gov’s other PAC, Taxpayers for Pat Quinn.

Friday, July 29, 2005

First of the Four Tops, plus Rauschenberger Files

Only three more days to file; here’s what’s come in recently:


Citizens for Frank Watson: The first of the four tops shows $483K in, $271K out and $1.1m available. Expenditures include $125K to the caucus PAC (which hasn’t filed yet) and $25K loaned to Citizens for Rick Winkel last January.

Friends of Kwame Raoul: The Senate Democrat reports $78K in, $31K out and $108K available. Donors include $10K from Ariel Capital Management (half directly from the firm, half from Chairman John Rogers), $5K from ITLA, and $2.5K each from the CTU and Bruce Simon.

Friends for Hultgren: The House Republican shows $214K in receipts, most of it in loans. He loaned the committee $155K; another $5K each came from Paul Craig and Kraig Krueger, apparently co-workers at Fortress Financial; and $10K from retired homemaker Pam Nungesser of St. Petersburg, Florida. He also shows $10K in expenditures and $207K available.

Dan Rutherford Campaign Committee: News flash! Rutherford is thinking of running statewide. Ok, that’s not news, but it’s apparent from his disclosure report. He’s been making small donations to a range of Republican groups around the state: Livingston County Republican CC, Northwest Suburban GOP Family Picnic, Sangamon County Republican CC, Tazewell County Republicans. He shows $315K in, $129K out and $340K available, which isn’t what the potential goob candidates will want to be showing, but is typical for downticket races.

Illinois Federation of Teachers COPE: The other big teachers union has filed, showing $1.1M in receipts, $502K in expenditures, and $1.3M available.

Illinois State Medical Society: The docs are in. They show $424K in, $210K out, and $552K available. The lion’s share of the receipts, $185K, came from the malpractice insurer, ISMIE; they’re also showing a lot of hospital money. Expenditures went to the Senate Republicans ($30K), the House Republicans ($30K), and the Gov ($25K). The Senate President got $10K, and inexplicably, the Speaker got stiffed. Alright, “inexplicable” may not be the right word.

Maag for Justice: Not only did Gordon Maag lose the Supreme Court race, not only did he lose retention to his Appellate Court seat, but apparently, his campaing car was in an accident. His disclosure report shows payments to a garage to make repairs. The fund is barred by court rules from raising money, but it shows a balance available of $11K.

Citizens for Dale A Righter Illinois State Senate: The downstate Republican shows $85K in and a balance available of $126K, including investments.


Running Totals (remember: everybody’s final reports are due in on Monday):

Hasn’t Filed Yet (see 7/15 post, below, for full disclaimer):
Raised
Blagojevich: $826,558 (including $250K from SEIU, $100K from IL Pipe Trades, $50K
from Il. Council on Long Term Care, IL Hospitals)
Lisa Madigan: $11,757 (including $5K from IUOE and $2.5K from LaSalle Bank)

Bill Brady $29,600 (including $5K from the Illinois Homebuilders, $3.5K from the
Committee on Home Ownership and $2K each from the Residential
Construction Employers Council and the John Maitland Campaign Committee)
Oberweis: $10K (all Renew Illinois)
Topinka: $114,580 (including $25K from IL Hospitals, $20K IUOE, and $15K from Illinois
National Bank,)


Has Filed:
Raised Cash on Hand
Vallas: $7K $0
Gidwitz#: $3M N/A
LaHood $597K $526K
Rauschenberger $786K $588K

#- Posted data to website; has not filed with SBE.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lawyers, Nursing homes, and candidates

As we get closer to the August 1 deadline for filing disclosure reports, more and more interesting groups are showing up. Several legislative candidates have filed but it’s the interest groups that seem most intriguing, so they come first:


Illinois Trial Lawyers Association: ITLA has had a rough year, between the 5th District Supreme Court race and the med mal bill, but their members aren’t going away. Their PAC shows $255K in receipts and just $98K in expenditures (including $20K for the Senate President and $15K for the Speaker) for a big net boost to their cash on hand. They’re now sitting on $276K.

Illinois Council on Long Term Care: The larger of the two nursing home PACs raised $180K, spent $160K and has $68K available. Big recipients include the governor ($50K), the Senate President ($17.5K) and Dan Hynes ($2.5K) (Note that big is a relative term, even among the top three).

Illinois Small Loan Association: The payday lenders may have had a rougher year than the Trial Lawyers, hosting a big fundraiser for the governor and then watching him sign legislation they fought hard to stop. They raised $80K, spent only about half of that, and ended the period with $106K available. They gave nothing to the Speaker, but the other Three Tops all reported $2.5K to their personal PACs; the two Senate leaders also got $5K in their caucus PACs while HRO shows $1K.



And some candidates filed:

Friends of Kevin Joyce: Must be something in the water that has so many candidates hiring pricey consultants. The Democratic state rep’s PAC shows $42K in, $47K out and $63K available. He reports $12K to MJO Consulting for “consulting” purposes.

Citizens for Leitch (David): The Republican state rep shows $40K in, $50K out and $105K available. He shows $750 to Campaigns and Elections in DC to attend a seminar in April.

We bid adieu to two candidates who have finaled out. Former State Senator Kathy Parker has closed her account, repaying herself $150 for an old loan and another $26K for no apparent reason. And Scot England, who raised only $22K but scared Rep. Bob Flider into spending nearly $600K, actually raised a little money to repay some of his debts before closing his account.


Running Totals (remember: everybody’s final reports are due in on Monday):

Hasn’t Filed Yet (see 7/15 post, below, for full disclaimer):
Raised
Blagojevich: $719,408 (including $250K from SEIU, $100K from Il. Pipe Trades, $50K
from Il. Council on Long Term Care)
Lisa Madigan: $6,508 (including $2,500 from LaSalle Bank)


Bill Brady $29,600 (including $5K from the Illinois Homebuilders, $3.5K from the
Committee on Home Ownership and $2K each from the Residential
Construction Employers Council and the John Maitland Campaign
Committee)
LaHood: $3,750
Oberweis: -0-
Rauschenberger: $74,450 (including $10K from Mpower, $9K from IEA, and $3.5K from
AT&T)
Topinka: $86,780 (including $15K from Illinois National Bank, $5K each from IPAC,
“sponsored by Inland Group”, and LaSalle Bank)


Has Filed:
Raised Cash on Hand
Vallas: $7K $0
Gidwitz#: $3M N/A

#- Posted data to website; has not filed with SBE.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

AMEREN, Salvation, AFSCME, Ethics

Ameren PAC: A few weeks ago we noted that Dyn-PAC was still active, even though Dynergy had sold Illinois Power to Ameren. Ameren PAC has now filed; they’re active, too. They report $56K in receipts, most of if ($35K) from the corporation but the rest from staff through payroll deductions. Donations appear to be commensurate with the staffer’s title, but what’s interesting is that the corporate giving is described as “matching funds” tied to individual giving (albeit at 4 times individual giving). The PAC gave out $46K, including $7.5K to Frank Watson and the RSSCC, $6K to Emil Jones and the ISDF, and $5K to Michael J Madigan; and had $21K available.

Saving Healthcare and Industry for Tomorrow (SHIFT): this was another PAC formed around the time of the 5th District Supreme Court race; it’s now pretty dormant, but it did report raising $577.54, all of it from the Salvation Army of Syracuse, New York. This appears to be the first and only recorded contribution by the Salvation Army (New York or Illinois chapters), and makes one wonder what their tax status is.

AFSCME Illinois Council 31: The state employees PAC shows $50K in receipts, all of it directly from the union; $51K in expenditures (including $12.5K for Dan Hynes, $10K for Emil Jones and $3.5K each for Pat Quinn and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee) and $11K available.

Illinois Citizens for Ethics: A PAC is born… They haven’t reported raising any money just yet, but they’ve staked out the name, claimed a State ID number (#8912) and asserted a purpose (“To support state candidates who agree with our positions on various issues.”). We don’t know who officers Kevin Costello and Dennis O’Brien are (drop us a line if you do), but we hope at least some of their issues include honest government and clean elections.