A major political organization is holding its big annual fundraiser in Chicago tonight. Sponsors are paying up to $20,000 for the title "honorary co-chair." And no, it's not our event.
It's Gov. Blagojevich's, and if past fundraisers are any indication, he's expected to pull in $3-5 million. That's more than most previous governors have raised at a single event, but it's par for the course for Blagojevich, who has raised more than anyone else in the history of Illinois politics.
The size of his fundraising is noteworthy by itself, but who gives has also raised eyebrows, and concerns. As Deanna Bellandi reports for the AP today, "Contributors have gained spots on state boards and commissions; donors have received state business; lobbyists who are friends and associates of the governor have won lucrative contracts for their clients; and his top fundraisers have had a say in government policy and appointments."
Friends of Blagojevich won't have to report receipts from the event until next January, so we won't know for sure who gave or if any of today's haul looks improper. But the history of donors getting state contracts, coupled with demonstrated illegalities in the Operation Safe Road and Hired Truck trials, suggest that Illinois needs more regulation over some campaign contributions than are now on the books.
HB 1, the pay to play ban, certainly deserves public debate and a floor vote. It's been tied up in the Senate for 176 days now without any sign that Senate leadership is prepared to address the problem. Lt Gov. Pat Quinn today calls for action on HB 1, and Comptroller Dan Hynes, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, and Secretary of State Jesse White have all declared their public support for the measure; to date, the governor is the only fence sitter.
Thonight's fundraiser is being held while the legislature is considering a multi-billion dollar capital construction program. Before another fundraising cycle slips by, sponsors of this bill, whose number includes fully three-fourths of the members of the Senate, should find a way to move this bill.