Tuesday, July 24, 2007

PAY-TO-PLAY REFORM HELD HOSTAGE IN SENATE

With the General Assembly in overtime, www.ilcampaign.org on Tuesday began featuring a running count of the days that pay-to-play reform legislation has been held hostage in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Early this spring, the Illinois House approved pay-to-play reforms (House Bill 1) by a vote of 116 to 0, and the Senate placed it in the Rules Committee the next day, April 26,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “Ninety days have passed, and House Bill 1 has not budged from the Rules Committee.

“Even though 45 members in the 59-member Senate are sponsors of House Bill 1, Senate President Emil Jones will not allow it to be debated by the full Senate,” Canary said. “Emil Jones should free House Bill 1.”

House Bill 1 would prohibit contractors with state business valued over $25,000 from giving to the officials who oversee their contracts and to candidates for that office. Bidders on state contracts would be required to disclose previous campaign contributions, and state officers, employees and their spouses would be prohibited from profiting from state contract and bond deals.

Visit www.ilcampaign.org for the daily count and more information about pay-to-play legislation, a list of supporters and contact information for Senate President Emil Jones.

Powerage

Yesterday's fly-around by the Attorney General and the leaders of the two legislative chambers shows how important electric rates have been recently. Campaign disclosure reports may also add to the picture. This analysis is preliminary, both because we haven't finished running the numbers yet and also because not every committee filed on time. Still, these figures should be suggestive of campaign money flows between electric companies and legislators.

Overall, the industry gave $229K during the first half of 2007. Biggest donors included Com Ed/Exelon ($72K), Midwest Gen ($45K), Ameren ($38K), and Dynegy ($30K). Top recipients include:

Rep. Tom Cross and the House Republican Organization - $37K
Sen. Frank Watson and the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee -$27K
Sen. Jim Clayborne - $13K
House Speaker Michael J. Madigan - $10K (DPI shows -0-)
Illinois Senate Democratic Fund - $10K (Senate President Jones shows -0-)
Rep. Edward Acevedo - $8.5K
Sen. Tony Munoz - $7.5K
Sen. Dale Risinger - $6K
Rep. Brent Hassert - $6K
Rep. Patrick Verschoore - $5K

Check back to ICPR's website for updated disclosure analysis in the coming days and weeks.

Friday, July 20, 2007

D2 Day

Today’s the day for campaign finance disclosure. The usual suspects have or will be filing at the State Board of Elections and ICPR and the Sunshine Project will start work standardizing the names, coding the donors and analyzing the receipts. In the meantime, here’s a summary of three new PACs that were active this Spring.

The First CD Victory PAC (Local ID # 13868) was formed on January 24, 2007 with Congressman Bobby Rush as Chair and Chicago man-about-town Elzie Higginbottom as Treasurer. Before the February elections it raised 43 donations totaling $118K (averaging $2.7K) and gave that money mostly to Aldermanic candidates in the First Congressional District, which Rush represents. Then something happened to the committee. Rush left as Chair, Higginbottom as took over, and the fund really started raising money. After the February 27 elections, the PAC raised another 75 donations totaling $544K (averaging $7.2K). Donors included a who’s who of Connected Chicago, along with a few big box retailers. And, as was widely noted at the time, the PAC started giving to Aldermanic candidates who were (1) in run-offs, regardless of which Congressional District they lived in, and (2) were perceived as being friendly to the Mayor. The funded ended the reporting period with $19K.

ActBlue Illinois (State ID #9277) is a Massachusetts-based in Massachusetts and formed late last year that raises money “To support all Democrats running for state legislative or statewide offices.” It looks like it’s taking a page from U.S. Senator Barack Obama and others who have focused on Internet fundraising on a national scale; but this one seeks to funnel that money into state legislative races. The PAC reported just under $24K in receipts, including about $7K in non-itemized receipts (ie, from donors who gave less than the $150 disclosure threshold). Of its itemized receipts, about half (52%) came from in-state while the rest came from Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, California – you get the idea. It’s an interesting idea in fundraising. Most of the money raised went to one candidate – Daniel Biss, a challenger for a House seat (and what didn’t go to Biss went to processing fees, not other candidates). The PAC ended the period with about $4K on hand.

Citizens for Tax Fairness, Healthcare & Education (State ID #9366) was formed earlier this year to “To advocate for and contribute to the public debate on tax fairness, healthcare and education.” They broadcast a bunch of TV spots ($800K worth, including a few radio ads) in support of Gov. Blagojevich’s proposed Gross Receipts Tax, but didn’t give to any candidates. Their receipts came from four PACs: the IEA ($400K), the IFT ($200K), the Illinois Hospital Assn ($250K), and Planned Parenthood Votes Illinois ($5K. And no, that’s not a typo, just a difference of scale). The Committee listed a PO Box for an address, but if there was ever any doubt who they were affiliated with, one donor listed an address matching the same street and suite number as Friends of Rod Blagojevich. The PAC ended the period with about $19K available.

That’s just three of the over 3,000 committees that should be filing by today. Go look at the State Board of Elections website to see what else is available. And check back to ICPR’s website for an updated Sunshine Database in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Monahan Money

Today the US Attorney for Northern Illinois announced an indictment against Aidan Monahan, of Monahan Landscape Company. The indictment, which alleges that Monahan fraudulently obtained landscaping contracts with the Chicago Public Schools that should have been set aside for minorities and women, is available here (PDF), and the press release is here (PDF).

Monahan and his company have given generously to politicians in the Chicagoland area: over $200K according to the State Board of Elections website, mostly between 1999 and 2003. He appears to have made no donations since 2005. The allegations in today's indictment focus on activities from 2003-2006.

Top recipients include:

Democratic Party of Illinois - $108K (between '99-'02)
Friends of Michael J Madigan - $27K ('99)
Citizens for Lisa Madigan - $25K ('02)
Statesman of the Year (IUOE Local 150) - $23,125 ('99-'05)
33rd Ward RDO - $10.9K ('00-'02) (not including $200 to Citizens for Richard Mell in '99)
Friends of [Chgo Ald.] Patrick J. Levar - $5.5K ('00-'02) (not including $750 to 45th Ward RDO in '99)
Friends of Blagojevich - $5K ('02)
Richard M Daley Campaign Committee - $1.5K ('03)
Citizens for [Former Chgo Ald. Arenda] Troutman - $1.5K ('02)
Citizens for [Former Cook Sheriff] Michael F. Sheahan - $250 ('01)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Do Things Right

The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette recently noted the strong sentiment among Illinois voters for cleaning up government. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones say they support ethics reform, but the newspaper said they haven't delivered it.

"They talk a good game but their actions show nothing but contempt for ethics reforms," The News-Gazette said in a strong editorial. (Read all of it here.)

Regular readers of this blog know that House Bill 1, which would limit opportunities for pay-to-play in state government, passed the House without any opposition on April 25th, but Senate President Jones has kept it locked in the Senate Rules Committee even though 45 senators have signed on a co-sponsors.

Other important reform legislation also has met a roadblock in the Senate.

The News-Gazette asked some important questions: " . . . why don't the Senate president and his pal, Rod "We do things right" Blagojevich, get behind tough disclosure laws on elected officials, lobbyists, contractors and subcontractors? Why don't they limit no-bid state contracts? Why don't they open up ethics commission investigations?"

This would be a good time for answers and for passing restrictions on pay-to-play opportunities.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deadline to Disclosure

This Friday is the deadline for campaign disclosure reports for the first half of 2007. The new deadline was signed into law last month and the State Board of Elections now lists on its Disclosure Homepage that "The deadline for filing the June 2007 Semiannual Report is July 20th."

When they use the red ink like that, you know they're serious.

With the legislature still in session, this is a prime opportunity to see who's been giving to whom to influence policy. Electric utilities? Gambling interests? All will be revealed. And don't forget the Chicago elections -- if you've been wondering exactly how much Big box supporters and their opponents in the labor unions ponied up in their proxy wars, check the SBE on Friday. ICPR will post the new data to the Sunshine Database just as soon as our crack staff can process it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Special Session for Ethics?

The Governor has worked himself into a Special Session because a gun control measure, SB 1007, passed the Senate by one vote and hasn't been called for a vote in the House. If he's going to call a Special Session every time a bill passes one chamber and isn't called in the other, this could be a long string of Special Sessions.

But, playing out that hypothetical, if he's really so concerned about the fate of bills that pass one and then don't get called, maybe he should take a look at HB 1, the pay to play ban, which passed the House last April on a unanimous vote and yet hasn't even been assigned to a committee in the Senate. Not that it's unpopular in the upper chamber -- it has 45 sponsors -- more than enough to pass, even if some of them do stay home.

We're not saying that he should call a Special Session for ethics. But if he did, we can see the quote now. "How is it that a bill that passed... the State House that would ban pay to play, didn't get a chance to have a vote in the Senate?" How indeed.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sausage and Gridlock

The gridlock in Springfield has a lot of people talking about how to streamline the process and increase accountability in the legislative and executive branches. ICPR's Director Cindi Canary has some thoughts on that question in this week's Crain's Chicago Business.

"It's not just the budget. Other major concerns like the quality of public schools, public transit, skyrocketing electric rates, pension debt and even ethics are debated but not resolved.

"It's no wonder that a recent poll found 90% of Illinoisans believe changes are needed in the way we govern and practice politics in this state.

"We should begin by shaking up the power structure and rules that help determine who gets a vote in Springfield."

Read more here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Earlier Disclosure

The governor and the general assembly can't agree on much this year, but one thing they have agreed on is that political committees should file their reports earlier than in the past. One of the only 12 bills signed into law so far this year is HB 426 (it's PA 95-6, if you're counting).

Likely best known as the bill that moves the primary date, it also moves the dates when campaign disclosure reports are due. Signed on June 20 and effective immediately, it moved up the dates on which campaign reports must be filed with the State Board of Elections by 11 days.

Political committees now have to file their reports by July 20, two weeks from today. Candidates and other PACs in Chicago's elections (and all of the other municipals), the few statehouse announced challengers, and of course all of the statewides and incumbent legislators -- all of that data is due to www.elections.il.gov in a mere two weeks. Get ready, get set!