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.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Utility Donations and the Forby Amendment

Friday's vote in the Illinois Senate to add Com Ed to a rate freeze bill, only to have the effect of that vote nullified by a parliamentary manuever, has gotten a lot of press.

Certainly Com Ed and Ameren have a lot at stake in the vote. And they've given a lot in campaign contributions to incumbent senators. Much of the money they gave would be illegal in most other states, either because it came directly from the corporation (most states ban direct corporate giving) or because of the size of the donation (most states limit giving from each donor). Certainly, neither Com Ed or Ameren could have given as much to leadership as they did, if Illinois had laws like most other states do.

Some Senators may have cast their vote because they think it was the right thing to do. But some other factors may also have been at play, to varying degrees with different Senators. Campaign giving by utilities and transfers from leadership PACs affect all of them.

The attached spreadsheet lists each Senator, how they voted on the Forby amendment, if they were targeted in 2006, when their seat is next on the ballot, and how much they received in 2005-2006 from electric companies (and, if 2006 targets, from leadership.). No one explanation likely covers all 59 Senators. But the answers to most of the votes can likely be found in these factors.

Forby Amendment Analysis

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Observations on Chicago's Runoffs

The voting ended barely 36 hours ago. While many pundits have declared the elections' meaning already, sometimes real conclusions take longer to come to the surface. Here, rather, are some observations on what happened last Tuesday.

Raising the most money
The candidate who reported raising the most since the February elections won 8 of 12 contests: Fiorretti, Dowell, Foulkes, Lane, Colon, Daley, Moore, and Stone. In the 21st, Howard Brookins was out-raised nearly 2:1 and still won the vote by 20 percentage points. In the 24th, Sharon Denise Dixon reported raising only $10K since the February elections; incumbent Michael Chandler reported twelve times that much, but Dixon appears to have won with a 128-vote margin. And in the 32nd, incumbent Ted Matlak reported raising $265K more than Scott Waguespack; outraised more than nine to one, Waguespack appears to have won with a 122-vote margin.

Ballot Position and vote margins
The candidate with first ballot position won 9 of the 12 contests. Interestingly, in two of the three races where the vote margin is less than 200 votes, the apparent winner had the second ballot position: in the 32nd, Scott Waguespack was 2nd on the ballot, and in the 24th, Sharon Denise Dixon was 2nd on the ballot. Though it its tempting to wonder if the results might have been clearer had the ballot positions been reversed, it also bears remembering that this was the only race on the ballot; all voters came to the polls with only one race, and two candidates, to consider.

Turnout
Turnout decided most of these races. Just one in four voters went to the polls. In losing to Bernie Stone, 50th Ward candidate Naisy Dolar's vote totals would have been enough to win in seven of the 11 other races (in the 3rd, 15th, 24th, 32nd, 35th, 43rd, and 49th Wards).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Updated Runoff Totals

Here's our count of how much each candidate in Chicago's runoffs has raised since the February elections. What's particularly striking is how money is plainly a factor in some races and for some candidates, and also how money is plainly not the most important resource for some other candidates. Including fundraising for the February elections, at least four of these races will spend a combined $1 million -- for a seat that's less than two-thirds the size of a state rep district.

Ward Candidate Raised for Runoff Ward Total
2 Fioretti $111K $169K
Haithcock $58K
3 Tillman $191K $518K
Dowell $327K
15 Foulkes $176K $236K
Simmons-Stoval $60K
16 Thompson $341K $421K
Coleman $80K
18 Lane $43K $51K
Stewart $8K
21 Brookins $127K $331K
Jones $204K
24 Chandler $82K $92K
Dixon $10K
32 Matlak $298K $331K
Waguespack $33K
35 Colon $149K $194K
Colom $45K
43 Daley $252K $405K
Smith $154K
49 Moore $381K $493K
Gordon $112K
50 Stone $179K $328K
Dolar $149K

A few observations on reports in the last day: JoAnn Thompson reported $20K from AFSCME and $28K from SEIU. Rey Colon reported $50K from SEIU. Don Gordon reported $1K from "Chicago Chefs for Choice" which is not (yet) a PAC but apparently shares an address with the Illinois Restaurant Association, which has previously given generously to Gordon. And there's still a lot of money on the sidelines. First CD Victory PAC reported another $48,750, but they're not appearing in anybody's receipts column. Yet. Look for a few more A1s to come in later this week, and then we'll have to wait for the Semis this summer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

$3.3M Reported in Chicago Runoffs; $25M Total

On the eve of the Chicago City Council runoff election, a new analysis of campaign finance reports shows that total contributions to incumbents and challengers passed the $25 million mark in this election cycle.

The 24 candidates in the runoff for 12 seats on the City Council have collected $9 million of the $25.2 million total contributed to all of the candidates for the 50 seats between Jan. 1, 2005 and April 15, 2007, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project. Runoff candidates have raised at least $3.3 million since the February, 2007, elections.

The $1.8 million contributed by Illinois affiliates of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) made the SEIU the highest single source of the total $25.2 million received by all City Council candidates in the past two years. The First C.D. Victory Fund, a political action committee funded by allies of Mayor Richard M. Daley, is a distant second on the list of top contributors. The First C.D. Victory Fund, founded just three months ago, has contributed $315,000 in this election cycle.

We'll be posting this to our website by the end of the day; in the meantime, here's the list of top donors to Aldermanic candidates since January 1 of this year.

  1. $1,784,000 SEIU (IL Council PAC and Local 880)
  2. $315,000 First CD Victory Fund
  3. $275,000 UFCW (Local 881 and the Active Ballot Club)
  4. $234,000 Chicago Federation of Labor
  5. $208,000 Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress
  6. $205,000 Chicago Association of Realtors
  7. $176,000 AFSCME Council 31
  8. $156,000 Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce PAC
  9. $89,000 Richard M Daley Campaign Committee
  10. $82,000 IL Merchants PAC Team

Friday, April 13, 2007

Daley Dough

Mayor Daley won the February election by a landslide. So why is he still collecting campaign funds? Since the election, Daley has accepted $460K in contributions from individuals and businesses. The only reason we know this is because he's giving to active candidates, forcing him to report his receipts in real time. To date, he's transferred out only $93K to candidates and ward committees. That’s about a fifth of the money he’s raised.

To put that in perspective, Senate President Emil Jones is also giving to active candidates ($2K to Ald. Tillman), and so he also has to report receipts until next Tuesday. And yet, he reports no receipts since the February elections. Daley may be Da Mare, but people don't just throw money at him for that reason; usually, it's because somebody asks. So why is he raising so much?

His post-victory money comes from a variety of sources. Miles D White, CEO of Abbott Labs, is the top donor with $100K. Gibson’s Steakhouse co-owners Stephen Lombardo and Hugo Ralli combined to donate $25K; J.W. Higgins of Higgins Development Partners also gave $25K, as did something called "UP PAC." UP PAC is not listed with the State Board of Elections, though the address reported by the Daley Campaign is the same as that for the Rosemont-based Builders Association PAC.

Chicago Database, Updated

ICPR and the Sunshine Project have updated the Chicago Sunshine Database for next Tuesday's runoff elections. Now, data for the 24 candidates on next week's ballot is updated with receipts since the February 27th contests. Want to see who's giving to whom, and where your candidates are getting most of their money? Go here and find out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ethics and State Employees

The 2003 Ethics Act was crafted to make government ethics a regular part of state employment. In reaction to Operation Safe Road, with proven tales of political work on taxpayer time, the 2003 Act not only set out clear guidelines for what was acceptable and what wasn't, it also created an apparatus for enforcing the rules, including a complaint process and regular training to ensure that all state employees understood.

The Act was passed four years ago. How's it going now? A new survey conducted by the Executive Ethics Commission finds many bumps in the road. Among the findings:

  • Over 87% identify one or more elements in their workplace that indicate an unhealthy ethical climate.
  • Only 35.5% perceive no problem of retaliation against those who bring complaints.
  • Over 45% believe that senior officials are held to different ethical standards than other employees.
The news wasn't all gloomy. Most employees say they're getting the training they should and are familiar with the requirements of the 2003 Act. But employees aren't sure the Act is being followed as stringently as it should be. And the Commission suggests more hands-on training, rather than the computer-based system that's in place now.

The Commission has made copies of the report available, and soon we'll get it posted on ICPR's homepage. Bernie Schoenberg has the story, and the report, in today's SJ-R.

The 2003 Act was a giant leap for Illinois, the most significant move by the state in years. But if it isn't updated, modified, tweaked, and refreshed, it won't do what it created to do. The Commission supports SB 157 as one necessary tweak, creating more transparency, and we agree. But there's a lot more work to be done to ensure that government is an ethical place to work.

Chicago Cash

Chicago's runoff elections are next week and the campaign disclosure reports are showing lots of contributions. ICPR, working with Prof. Kent Redfield of the Sunshine Project, have tabulated the largest donors to candidates in next Tuesday's runoff. We'll have more data posted later today on donors to particular candidates in the runoffs, but here are the largest donors to all Chicago aldermanic candidates, as of Wednesday evening:

$1,713,000 SEIU IL Council PAC & Local 800
$275,000 UFCW Local 881 & Active Ballot Club
$228,000 Chicago Federation of Labor
$218,000 First CD Victory Fund
$213,000 Chicago Association of Realtors
$167,000 AFSCME Council 31
$142,000 Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce PAC
$106,000 Herro David
$105,000 Meier Helen
$92,000 Construction & Gen Laborers Dist Council Chicago

There's also a lot of money on the sidelines -- that First CD Victory Fund has about a quarter million in the bank, and Mayor Daley has more than a million in his fund, not counting the $89K he's already transferred to runoff candidates. This last weekend could see significant spending in many of the runoffs.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Follow the money

Chicago's aldermanic runoffs have drawn a lot of attention. First the focus was on all that union giving. Then the First CD Victory PAC, which supports the unions' opponents, came into focus. Now, we're left to wonder where this money is going.

Commonwealth Edison reported today that they've transferred $100,000 to their PAC. Since Com Ed was a big contributor to the First CD Victory PAC, one might think some of that money is bound for the Chicago runoffs. But Com Ed also has its hands full in Springfield, where rate hikes have prompted calls for re-regulation. There are good arguments that the money could be headed in either direction.

Anyone wanna guess?