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?

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