Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Protect Integrity of Capital Spending Plan with Pay-to-Play Reform Legislation

Before the General Assembly adopts a new capital spending plan, whether it is focused on roads and schools or includes bridge repair, it should enact new limits on campaign contributions from state contractors.

“The story on page one of today's Sun-Times reminds us of the history of links between state contractors and state campaigns. Antoin "Tony" Rezko raised untold thousands for Gov. Blagojevich's campaign PAC. And once in office, Rezko seeded the administration with friends, former staffers, business partners and their children. His companies obtained lucrative contracts through the tollway,” said ICPR Director Cynthia Canary. “Until his federal corruption trial is over, no one will know exactly how perfidious the relationship between Rezko and Blagojevich actually was.”

But Rezko was not alone, other examples include:

• IGOR the Watchdog gave Gov. Blagojevich's campaign fund $76K and saw a $150K contract to oversee the sale of Tollway I-Pass transponders balloon into a $7M deal.

• PWS Environmental gave Gov. Blagojevich's campaign fund $22K and got a $522K contract from IDOT to power wash state buildings, including salt domes. PWS' president was also the brother-in-law of then-IDOT Director Robert Millette.

• Harmony Health Plan of Illinois gave Gov. Blagojevich's campaign fund $100K, in five $20K checks from different subsidiaries on the same day and later got a $75M state contract.

All of these stories, well documented in the popular press, helped convince voters that there is an unhealthy connection between campaign fund and state contracts. That's in part why 86% of voters in last November's elections said that corruption was very or extremely important to them. To ensure that a new round of capital spending doesn't result in a new round of headlines, the state must pass tough pay-to-play restrictions.

“We commend Sen. Jeff Schoenberg for doing yeoman's work to find a way to include pay-to-play reforms in the same legislation as the pension and procurement reforms, he has long advocated,” said Canary.

In the meantime, the House approved pay to play legislation (House Bill 1) more than three months ago. If brought to a vote the Senate could send the legislation to the Governor immediately. The time for inaction has long since passed.

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