Friday, May 05, 2006

Leaders, or Candidates?

The General Assembly seems to be out of ideas for reforming Illinois politics, having adjourned without taking action on any substantive ethics or campaign finance proposals. Where the people’s representatives won’t lead, the people will have to step up. And today’s papers are full of ideas of what to do, or examples of what’s wrong. For instance:

Item: A former member of the Peoria Election Commission pleaded guilty to a felony for lobbying his own Commission on behalf of Populex voting equipment without admitting that he owned $240K in Populex stock, given to him by the company for serving on an advisory panel. He gave inside information to Populex to help the company improve its bid, prosecutors say. Does the company face any sanction? While he’s paying almost $40K in fines and reimbursements, what happens to the other $200K in stock he got? What role, if any, did he play in getting Sangamon County to adopt Populex equipment? Or is that the end of the story?

Item: Dolton Mayor William Shaw has hired his twin brother, Robert, to serve as Inspector General. A Dolton spokesperson insists Robert Shaw is qualified, but was the hiring process clean and fair, or was his job created after Robert Shaw lost an election last March? And why is this Inspector General not allowed to investigate the Mayor or the Trustees? Sounds more like an Inspector Limited.

Item: When New Lenox Mayor Mike Smith was found using a village credit card for personal expenses, he replied that he always repaid the village with a personal check. Now it seems that at least some of the time he was actually repaying the village with campaign funds. Was he using a village credit card for campaign expenses? Is he using campaign funds for personal expenses? Is he paying income taxes on these payments? Who paid for the strip club: the village, the PAC or the mayor? Should any of this be allowed?

Item: Former Chicago Ald. Dick Simpson writes in the Sun-Times today with a four-part plan to clean up politics in Illinois: (1) elect “officials running on a sincere platform of ending corruption” (2) “eliminate political machines“, (3) “provide public funding for political campaigns“ and (4) “enhance sunshine and freedom of information laws.“ Too much? Too little? What do you think?

The legislature adjourned so that they can hit the campaign trail. If you see any of them on that trail, ask them what they think of these stories. And why they left Springfield without doing anything about corruption.

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