Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reform: 116 - Pay to Play: 0.

Legislation aimed at limiting the influence of big campaign contributors passed the Illinois House yesterday with the strong support of legislators from both political parties.

“So many big campaign contributors receive big state government contracts that the public no longer buys the explanation that it is just a coincidence,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “The public is convinced that political connections often are more important than qualifications or price.”

House Bill 1 would prohibit business owners with more than $25,000 in state contracts from making campaign contributions to officeholders awarding the contracts. It also would require contract bidders to disclose past campaign contributions to the constitutional officer responsible for awarding the contracts and would prohibit state officers, employees and their spouses from profiting from state bond deals.

“There are reasons that phrases like ‘follow the money’ and ‘pay to play’ have such currency,” Canary said. “The public has followed the money, and too often the giver of campaign cash is the recipient of government dollars. The perception that you have to pay-to-play is detrimental to public confidence in government and discourages honest business owners from even considering bidding on state contracts.”

HB 1 is part of a package of ethics reforms advocated by Comptroller
Dan Hynes, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis and a coalition of reform organizations. In addition to ICPR, the supporters include Citizen Action Illinois, the Better Government Association, the Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois PIRG, the League of Women Voters of Illinois and Protestants for the Common Good.

HB 1 was sent to the Senate by a vote of 116 to 0. State Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, is the sponsor HB 1. The chief co-sponsors are Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, and State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock; Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook; and Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview.

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