Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lobbyists Everywhere, Reform Frozen

The Tribune reports on today's front page on the number of former aides and current fundraisers for the governor who now are paid to lobby the governor. The numbers may be surprising. But what's not reported is how much these people are paid to lobby the guy they're also raising money for-- because that information isn't available. Once again, data that is public record in many other states and at the federal level, not to mention in Cool County and the City of Chicago, is not collected by the State of Illinois. It's hard to know how much of a conflict of interest the governor has when the public can't even see how much his ex-aides are billing.

A bill to correct this imbalance is now stalled in the House. HB 8 passed out of committee without opposition, and was amended to address concerns of committee members. Nonetheless, it sat on Third Reading for a month before being sent back to Rules last week. When the governor rails against lobbyists in Gucci shoes, part of the solution is to better regulate lobbyists.

Other reform efforts are similarly stymied. SB 222, to create a public financing alternative for judicial elections, is sitting in the House Exec committee, but has not been posted for a hearing. And HB 1, to end pay to play in state contracting, languishes in Senate Rules, despite unanimous support in the House and 44 (!) Senate Sponsors. The end of session package deal ought to include public integrity measures like these to assure the public that their money is being well spent for the public interest, and not merely because well-heeled lobbyists and overly-generous state contractors are paying the freight.

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