Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ICPR HELPS ILLINOISANS BOOT BLAGO

REMOVE THE GOVERNOR AND ENACT MAJOR REFORMS

Illinoisans who want to give Gov. Rod Blagojevich the boot out of office can go to www.BootBlago.org for the latest information on the Blagojevich scandal and advice how they can help change the state’s political system.

“Like his predecessor George Ryan – aka Federal Inmate Number 16627424 – Rod Blagojevich is an embarrassment to the state of Illinois,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “The arrest of Gov. Blagojevich on a variety of corruption charges has lit a fire under taxpayers. If he’s not going to resign, they want to boot him out of office.”

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) is redoubling its efforts to enact meaningful campaign finance reforms, and ICPR will help Illinoisans become advocates of the Governor Blagojevich's impeachment.

“Removing Gov. Blagojevich from office is not all that is needed to end the culture of corruption,” Canary said. “We have to reform the laws that now allow special interests to give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns, and we need to bring much more sunshine into the operations of state and local governments.

The fight can begin with a visit to www.BootBlago.org.

ICPR created the website as a tool to help Illinoisans unfamiliar with lobbying legislators and curious about the impeachment process.

Visitors to the website can write letters to Gov. Rod Blagojevich urging him to resign and can send letters to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn suggesting ways to improve the system. Visitors also can learn more about the reforms needed to make state politics and government more fair and honest and can link to ICPR’s website with a searchable database of campaign contributions to the governor, legislators and other candidates.

The reforms advocated by ICPR include limiting the size of campaign contributions, banning contributions by corporations and unions, prohibiting large transfers of campaign cash by legislative leaders to candidates, creating a system of voluntary campaign financing of judges, taking politics out of legislative redistricting, strengthening the State Board of Elections, toughening lobbyist regulation, requiring state officials to report more detail personal financial information concerning debts and investments, and making it easier to access public records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Warm, coal-fueled holidays

Lest anyone worried that our current governor would be ignored at the holidays, CNN reports that he is the politician most deserving of... coal in the stocking. It's not golden, but, hey, it's something.

From CNN.com:

Asked which political figure deserved a lump of coal this Christmas, the scandal-scarred Blagojevich was picked by more Americans than the other two candidates combined.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Number 2 in the nation? Or Number 3?

What a year it's been! The long presidential election, the financial upheavals, the continuing crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan - so much to remember. The Washington Post took a look back at the biggest scandals of the year and concluded that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged effort to sell the Senate seat ranked as the second biggest scandal of the year. #1 went to Bernard Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme defrauded investors of as much as $50 billion. #3 on the Washington Post list: Elliot Spitzer. Also-rans include former US Senator Ted Stephens of Alaska, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and AIG, which spent $400,000 on an executive retreat the weekend after getting a $124 billion bailout from the US Government. That's tough competition, but our governor beat them all, nearly.

The Pew Center for the Public and the Press recently updated their list of the most-followed political scandals in America. Their ranking asks Americans if they are aware of stories in the news, and how closely they are following the story. The Blagojevich corruption story ranked third, behind #1 congressional check bouncing (April, 1992) and #2, the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky story (March, 1998). Our current governor's arrest ranks ahead of the Gary Hart/Donna Rice story (September, 1987) and the Elliot Spitzer prostitute story (March, 2008). To date, there are no allegations of sex in the Blagojevich story, but even so, it's already #3 of all time.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also put out a list, looking at the top 25 most corrupt American politicians of all time. Illinois is well-represented on the list, with Gov. George Ryan at #23, US Rep. Dan Rostenkowski at #21, and Gov. Otto Kerner at #13. And while it's early yet and the full details have yet to come out, based on the record so far, Olbermann is confident enough in Illinois to put Rod Blagojevich at #3 on the all time list of corrupt American politicians. Of course, Rod is still in office, so there's time for him to improve his ranking. #2, Charles Forbes, who ran the Veteran's Bureau for President Warren G. Harding and managed to embezzle nearly a quarter of his $1.3 billion budget; and #1, New York City's Boss Tweed, might want to watch their backs.

All kidding aside, let's hope that 2009 brings a new culture to Illinois politics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 9 in Retrospect

It was one week ago today that federal agents appeared on the governor's doorstep to take him into custody. That event, so shocking and yet in many ways so anticipated, has plunged Illinois simultaneously into new levels of paralysis and fervent action. In the blinding glare of national attention, our path to the future is temporarily harder to see.

But before we move too far ahead, we should also note two other reasons for commemorating December 9. It was five years earlier, on December 9, 2003, that the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act was signed into law. The 2003 Ethics Act, as it is commonly known, was enacted, like the 2008 Pay-to-Play law, by the legislature over the governor's veto. The signing ceremony on December 9, 2003 was for an enhancement crafted after a storm of public opinion overcame Senate reluctance, resulting in a law that formed the apparatus of ethics enforcement: the Executive and Legislative Ethics Commissions, the Inspectors General, routine ethics training, and a host of other internal changes designed to ferret out corruption before it reached the scale and scope that typified George Ryan's tenure in public office. Rod Blagojevich signed the new law, the strongest in a generation, on December 9, 2003, five years to the day before he himself was arrested.

The other reason to note December 9 is that on that day, also in 2003, ICPR's co-founder Paul Simon passed away. Though Paul Simon is no longer here with us, his legacy of inspiration continues to guide many who believe that government can be ethical, responsible, and above board.

Now we have a third, far tawdrier, reason to recall December 9. We hope that the date will be remembered mostly not as another step in the final demise of one governor, but in Illinois' forward progress toward a more responsible government. If we in Illinois learn anything from history, it should be that removing one actor from the system will do little to change that system. The events of December 9, 2008, confirmed for many that Rod Blagojevich must go before Illinois' government can right itself. But removing the governor is only one step among many. Until we deal with the culture that embraces unlimited campaign contributions, that allows lobbyists to hide their relationships with clients and officials, that tolerates scorn for FOIA and economic interest disclosure, we as a state will be counting the days until the next Rod Blagojevich comes along.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Had enough?

The arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the numerous acts of corruption and abuse of power spelled out in the federal prosecutor’s 76-page complaint should be enough to light a fire under the Illinois General Assembly.

Yes, Gov. Blagojevich should resign. But because that would be the honorable thing for him to do, a resignation is not expected.

If he does not resign, the General Assembly should pass a law stripping him of the power to appoint Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate.

But that is not enough. The Illinois House should immediately move forward with impeachment proceedings. Illinois cannot function in these troubled times under the leadership of a man who has lost the trust and confidence of the public.

For several decades, the men and women elected to the General Assembly and other statewide offices have not done enough to end the culture of corruption in state government and too many local governments.

At a minimum, state legislators – Democrats and Republicans – have been enablers of government corruption. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich came to power in a system energized by money from people buying access, contracts, tax breaks and other benefits.

None of them have done enough to change the system. Passing legislation to take away Gov. Blagojevich’s power to name the state’s next U.S. Senator and removing him from office are not enough.

The General Assembly must pass laws directly addressing the culture of politics that allows people like Rod Blagojevich to become political leaders. It is time for the General Assembly to pass tough new laws limiting the size of campaign contributions, banning contributions by corporations and unions, prohibiting large transfers of campaign cash by legislative leaders to candidates, creating a system of voluntary campaign financing of judges, taking politics out of legislative redistricting, strengthening the State Board of Elections, toughening lobbyist regulation and making it easier for the public to access public records through the Freedom of Information Act.

The General Assembly also should make certain the recent pay-to-play legislation, which will take effect Jan. 1, is enforced and that the State Board of Elections has the funding and determination to carry out its responsibilities under the new law.

Voters, too, share some responsibility.

Enough is enough. It is time for action.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Now is not the time to commute George Ryan’s sentence

The news this morning is full of stories about Sen. Dick Durbin’s very public mulling over whether to ask President George Bush to commute our former governor’s prison sentence. Sen. Durbin’s focus seems to be on how George Ryan is faring today. He, and his wife, are frail. To recall why he is in prison (pdf):

• He was convicted on 18 counts of public corruption.
• He structured his office so that hiring, promotions, and raises for staff were predicated on what they delivered to his re-election efforts.
• Equipment was looted to benefit his campaigns.
• He told a State’s Attorney investigating corruption in his staff to lay off “his guys.”
• He abetted the shake down of bidders over the awarding of contracts, and even of a small village over the location of a state prison.
• He apparently raised campaign money without disclosing where it came from, or when.
• He accepted bribes from contractors in the form of vacations and endeavored at the time to mask the bribes by writing checks to the contractors, which they surreptitiously paid back to him in cash.
• He arranged for bribes in the form of payments and loans to his relatives.

Ryan’s supporters cite several reasons for continuing to stand by the man. He got along famously with the General Assembly, and sheparded to passage a legislative agenda that many at the time said was too ambitious. But the reason with the most moral weight is always that, in the waning days of his administration, he commuted the sentences of dozens of prisoners, becoming in the process the man who emptied death row.

These are all true descriptions of some of what George Ryan has done with his time here on Earth, but none of them explain why Sen. Durbin is talking about him now. Nor is it because Ryan and his wife are advancing in age and declining in health. We are having this discussion because the President of the United States is about to leave office. It is no small irony that Ryan’s request that the President commute his sentence is based largely on his own decision, when similarly lame in office, to commute the sentences of dozens of prisoners.

From pay raises to pension enhancements, public officials have long used the tail end of their tenure in office for selfish acts. Now is the time when electeds are most insulated from voter backlash. Whether you see these as courageous or cowardly, they are always opportune.

So let’s not pretend that every fourth- or eighth- December is the time when prisoners subjected to excessive punishments always happen to reach a more proper measure of their debt to society. What Sen. Durbin is considering asking the President to do is not a delicate fine-tuning of the scales of justice but a blunt swinging of the lame duck’s ax. And the proper question is not, should President Bush commute George Ryan’s sentence, but is now the right time? Is barely one year in prison suitable for pervasive abuses of the public trust? For someone who has never acknowledged the breadth of his wrongdoing? Indeed, who has always maintained that “his conscience is clear” despite everything that has been proven? Who has failed to apologize to the Willis family who paid the ultimate price for the Ryan administration's corruption--the loss of six of their children? Who has yet to explain the $156,423.70 that magically appeared in his campaign fund on December 31, 2000? Who has yet to make a single act of contrition?

Now is not the time to commute George Ryan’s sentence.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crain's looks at lobbying at the federal level

Today's Crain's Chicago Business has an analysis of federal lobbying expenses by Chicago companies. The top ten combined to spend $44 million to lobby federal officials. Crain's attributes top-spender Boeing's lobbying to problems with a military tanker. But a similar analysis of lobbying at the state level is not possible, because the state of Illinois does not require lobbyists to disclose this information.

This kind of analysis gives insight to which companies are most focused on government activities, and what those companies may want from government. A similar analysis of lobbying at the state level would also help illuminate what role state government plays in the economy and in the aspirations of particular interests.

Lobbying expenses at the federal level are disclosed. Incredibly, lobbying expenses at Cook County are also disclosed, and lobbing expenses at the City of Chicago are disclosed. But the State of Illinois? No dice, no data.

Legislation now pending, HB 8, would address this problem, helping voters, lobbyists, and government officials alike get a better handle on what is at stake in government decisions, and who is investing funds in the outcome of those decisions. Would that the State of Illinois caught up with Cook County on the subject of lobbyist disclosure.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reform FOIA

Illinois' Freedom of Information Act was a huge leap forward when first adopted, but now is a forgotten relic, too often ignored by the very governments who are bound by its rules. ICPR made extensive use of FOIA last year with our first report on lobbying by units of local government [pdf]. Citing FOIA, we asked for records relating to lobbying. Most governments did comply, but many, too many, did not respond in accordance with the FOIA. What we got instead was:

* Many units of government took more than a month to respond. FOIA says they must respond with in 7 business days; that response may be to claim one extension, but they absolutely must respond within 14 business days. Large units of government, including the City of Chicago and Cook County, took far, far longer to get back to us.

* Many units charged excessive fees. FOIA allows units of government to charge actual copying costs -- that is, the cost of making copies, not the cost of gathering the information. For paper documents, a trip to the corner copy shop would suggest this is about 10 cents per page. We had units charging 25 cents per page, and the DuPage County Election Commission charged $1.00 per page.

* Many units of government refused to release documents. FOIA exempts from disclosure certain kinds of legal work. We found units of government that claimed that because their lobbyists were also lawyers, they did not have to tell us anything about their work or billings -- even though lobbying is not exempt legal work.

FOIA is supposed to be a floor, a minimum standard that all units of government must follow when taxpayers ask questions about what's being done in the name of the public. In practice, FOIA too often becomes an obstacle course, manipulated by public officials to discourage the public from asking questions.

We agree wholeheartedly with the State Journal-Register's editorial today that FOIA "needs reform -- now." The statute needs to be cleaned up and streamlined. And government agencies need to be reminded of their duties under FOIA, which are, after all, merely what government owes to its owners.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cook County Downballot Results

All of the county-wide judicial races in Cook County were uncontested, and Democrats won them all. Democrats also did very well in the contested subcircuit races, even in normally Republican subcircuits. Democrats ran candidates in every subcircuit seat, and won most of those they contested. The two most expensive, in the 4th and 12th subcircuits, went to the Democrat, despite the traditional Republican leanings of both of the suburban districts. In the 15th Subcircuit, Democrat Anna Helene Demacopoulous won 61-39 over Republican Peter Fera. The 13th subcircuit saw two contested races; neither drew huge amounts of money, and as of this morning, the Republicans held slim majorities in both with a handful of precincts yet uncounted.

On the retention ballot, no judges were removed from the bench. Judges need 60% of the vote to be retained and it looks like no judge got less than 65% of the vote -- that was Judge Edward Pietrucha, who was found unfit for the bench by 5 of the 10 bar groups that rated judges. Judge Cassandra Lewis, found unfit by 7 of the 10, won retention with 68.6% of the vote.

In other Cook County news, the recall referendum passed county-wide, 63-37. Park Ridge voted for staggered terms for aldermen. And Riverside Township, home to Judy Baar Topinka and Tony Peraica, voted against the advisory/non-binding referendum to "disconnect" from Cook County.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Today Until 7 pm

The radio this morning noted that today is the warmest Election Day in over 40 years, so the weather will likely not discourage voters. I always vote at 6 am when the polls open and today, for the first time, there was a line winding through the parking lot when I arrived. I was finished by 6:20, but still, I saw nothing to suggest that the surge in early voting will not be duplicated on Election Day.

Polls in Illinois are open until 7 pm. As long as you are in line at your polling place by 7 pm, you should be allowed to vote (and please be sure to check both sides of the paper ballot). If you need to know where you vote, the State Board of Elections has links to the 110 local election authorities around the state that manage each individual precinct. Most of these are county-wide authorities, but 8 follow municipal boundaries. Some have websites that will tell you where to vote; others, especially the smaller ones, may require a phone call. Plan ahead, and the day will go more smoothly.

If you have not yet figured out which judges to vote for (and there are dozens on the ballot) here are two resources: illinoisvotersguide.org offers information on all judicial candidates, including those running for retention. If you live in Cook County, voteforjudges.org has evaluations from over a dozen different bar and lawyers' groups. The State Board of Elections also offers a voters guide for statewide and some judicial candidates.

The Attorney General's Office has deployed staff to deal with any problems at polling places. If you see or experience problems that the election judges cannot or will not fix, call the Attorney General's Office. In the Chicago area, call 1-866-536-3496; downstate, call 1-866-559-6812

Friday, October 31, 2008

Updates to Legislative, Judicial, and Cook County State's Attorney fundraising

59th District Senate Race Likely to Break Record

As the 2008 General Election campaigns head into the final weekend, candidates in hotly contested races have reported record amounts of campaign fundraising. Although most legislative races are uncontested, the top ten legislative races, those that appear winnable to both parties, have reported almost $12 million in receipts to date. And the race for the 59th Senate Seat in far Southern Illinois is posed to break the old record for spending in a state Senate campaign.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project have also examined contributions in state judicial races and the Cook County State's Attorney. This analysis found a handful of trial court races that are likely to see over $100,000 in combined spending. The only seat on the state Supreme Court and all three seats on the appellate courts are uncontested, but several circuit (trial) court races have reported large receipts.

Legislative Races

As usual there have been large infusions of money from political committees controlled by the four legislative leaders. But because Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, will retire soon, several contenders for that position have raised more than $1 Million and they are using that money to make contributions to the campaigns of other Democrats seeking to retain or win seats in the Senate

Top Senate races include:

(1) In the 59th District, Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, reported $1,175,600 while his opponent, Republican Ken Burzynsksi of Benton reported $840,400, for combined $2,016,000. This race is well within striking distance of the spending record for a Senate seat. The previous record was set in this same District in 2006, when Sen. Forby and then-challenger Ron Summers combined to spend $2,465,000.

(2) In the 42nd District, Republican Terri Ann Wintermute of Bolingbrook, reported $789,500 while Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, reported $782,300 while her opponent, for a combined $1,571,700.

(3) In the 26th District, Republican Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington reported $796,800 while Democrat Bill Gentes of Round Lake reported $173,200 for a combined $970,000 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring William Peterson, Republican of Long Grove.

(4) In the 45th District, appointed Republican Sen. Tim Bivins of Dixon reported $760,000 while Democrat Marty Mulcahey of Galena reported $178,700 for a combined $938,700 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring Sen. Todd Sieben, Republican of Geneseo.

(5) In the 33rd District, Sen. Dan Kotowski, D- Park Ridge, reported $658,900 while his opponent, Republican Michael Sweeney of Arlington Heights reported $247,400 for a combined $906,300.

Top House Races include:

(1) In the 85th District, Rep. Brent Hassert, R-Romeoville, reported $778,200 while his opponent, Democrat Emily Klunk-McAsey of Lockport reported $510,100 for a combined $1,288,200.

(2) In the 92nd District, Democrat Jehan Gordon of Peoria reported $636,200 while Republican Joan Gordon Krupa of Peoria Heights reported $584,900 for a combined $1,221,100 in the race for the open seat left by Republican Aaron Schock of Peoria, now a candidate for U.S. Congress.

(3) In the 69th District, Challenger Greg Tuite, D-Rockford, reported $578,700 while incumbent Republican Ron Wait of Hinkley reported $417,000 for a combined $995,700.

(4) In the 96th District, Democrat Dianne McGuire of Naperville reported $534,800 while Republican Darlene Senger of Naperville reported $386,800 for a combined $921,700 in the race for the open seat left by the retiring Republican Joe Dunn of Naperville.

(5) In the 17th District, Rep. Beth Coulson, Republican of Glenview, reported $458,400 while Democrat Daniel Biss of Evanston reported $352,700 for a combined $811,100.

One candidate in one race has reported receipts of more than $1 million. Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, reported having $1.7 million available, including $479,400 raised since July 1, and $113,500 of that in the last week alone. Rep. Hoffman's Republican opponent, Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon, reported $305,400. Whether this race sets a record or even crosses the million dollar spending mark depends entirely on Hoffman's assessment of how much he is willing to spend to hold on to the seat.

Judicial Races

Circuit Court races have traditionally seen smaller fundraising than legislative contests. Fewer interest groups have gotten involved, and the size of the districts and number of voters has typically been smaller. Because the size of circuits varies so widely around the state, it is difficult to draw comparisons between one race and another, and it is difficult to say what the record would be for spending in these races. In the 2008 General Election, the Circuit Court races with the most fundraising include:

(1) In the 16th Circuit in Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties, Republican Patricia Piper Golden of Dundee reported $114,700 while Democrat John Noverini of Carpentersville reported $105,100 for a combined $219,800.

(2) In the 2nd Circuit in southeast Illinois, Republican David Overstreet of Mt. Vernon reported $132,600 while Democrat L. James Hanson of Mt. Vernon reported $40,900 for a combined $173,400.

(3) In the Cook County 12th Subcircuit Devlin vacancy, Democrat Pamela Lora of Mt. Prospect reported $102,500 while Republican Laura Morask of Park Ridge reported $56,800 for a combined $159,400.

(4) In the 1st Circuit in the southernmost part of Illinois, Democrat Steve Stone of Cartersville reported $81,000 while Republican James R. "Randy" Moore of Cartersville reported $33,700 for a combined $114,600.

(5) In the Cook County 4th Subcircuit, Democrat Patrick Rogers of Western Springs reported $87,900 while Republican Maureen Masterson-Pulia of Westchester reported $9,900 for a combined $97,800.

What's striking about judicial races this year is that none of the contests for county-wide seats in Cook County -- one for Supreme Court, two for Appellate Court, and nine for Circuit Court -- are even contested. This tactical retreat by the Republicans (and Greens) recalls the 2000 election, when a similar decision in the Supreme Court race allowed the Democrats to send resources to their candidate in the nominally Republican Third District. The $700,000 infusion, considered massive at the time, helped elect a Supreme Court Justice.

In these 2008 contests, we see the same dynamic playing out, as well-funded Democrats are running strong in the nominally Republican 4th and 12th subcircuits. There are no similarly well-funded Republicans or Greens in largely Democratic subcircuits. A change in campaign finance laws, to offer either public financing options or incentives for small donations, may alter this dynamic, which deprives most voters in Cook County of any real choice when voting for judges.

Cook County State's Attorney

The hottest race in Cook County appears to be for the State's Attorney's office, left open by the retirement of Democrat Dick Devine. Democrat Anita Alvarez of River Forest has reported $736,000 in receipts while Republican Tony Peraica of Riverside has reported $179,400 for a combined $915,400.

This report is the fourth in a series during the final weeks of the 2008 General Election campaign season. Earlier reports covered contribution totals, top donors to legislative races and the constitutional convention referendum, and giving by contenders to the Senate presidency, are all available at www.ilcampaign.org. ICPR and the Sunshine Project do not endorse candidates and have not taken a position on the con-con question.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Contenders to the Senate Presidency Donate Over $1 Million to Democratic Candidates to the State Senate

Belleville's Clayborne, Chicago's Cullerton Lead in Giving

In the weeks since Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, announced he would not seek reelection, contenders to replace him as Senate President have given more than $1 million to the campaigns of the candidates who likely will select the next Senate President -- other Democratic senators running for reelection and Democratic newcomers challenging Republican incumbents.

An analysis by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project demonstrates the giant leap in campaign contributions by the men seeking to replace Jones. In the 18 months prior to Jones' retirement announcement, these senators transferred just $61,300 to other Senate Democrats.

"While money is easy to quantify, Senate Democrats will likely consider several factors when choosing their next leader," said Cindi Canary, Director of ICPR. "But it looks like they believe supporting other senators now with campaign funds will prompt those same senators to return the favor later by voting one of the benefactors into the top Senate job."

If the contest to succeed Jones turns on money, the top two candidates will be Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, who has given $418,000 to other Senate Democrats, and Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, who has given $336,000.

Illinois has no limits on transfers of funds between candidates and no limits on contributions by special interests to candidates. Many of the donations made by the contenders would be illegal if made between candidates in most other states, or between candidates for federal office.

It will take 30 votes to elect the next Senate president. If neither Clayborne nor Cullerton can put together a coalition of 30 of their colleagues, a compromise candidate may emerge. Based on their transfers to Democratic Senate candidates, this second tier would include Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who has transferred $70,000; Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, who has transferred $60,000, and Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, who has transferred $58,000. Others giving at least $10,000 include Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, and Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D- Joliet.

Sen. Clayborne has transferred money from his own political committee, Friends of Clayborne. Top donors to his political committee include the Illinois Education Association, AT&T and Ameren.

Sen. Cullerton has used money from his committee, Citizens for John Cullerton, but he has also formed a new committee, the Senate Democratic Victory Fund. Top donors to his two funds include Chicago Wolves Chairman Don Levin, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, her husband Leo Smith, and her parents Harrison and Lois Steans; and the Illinois Hospital Association. Of the second tier, only Sen. Schoenberg has created a new committee, Deep Blue Illinois, to augment giving by his own committee.

The show of fundraising prowess comes as the Senate Democrats hold 37 of the 59 seats in the Senate, with hopes that a strong Democratic turnout for their former colleague and current Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama will further bolster their numbers. Giving by the Illinois Senate Democratic Fund (ISDF), the caucus political committee which is still controlled by Senate President Jones, has been down appreciably this year compared to recent cycles (ISDF expenditures are down from $2.4 million in the comparable period in 2004 and $3.6 million in 2006 to $803,000 in 2008), but these presidential contenders have helped to make up some of the decline. Most of funds from contenders have been transferred to incumbents, but a handful of challengers are also benefiting. Top beneficiaries include:

• Sen. Gary Forby, D- Benton: $300,000
• Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora: $241,000
• Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge: $92,000
• Candidate Bill Gentes, a Democrat from Round Lake: $84,500
• Candidate Peter Gutzmer, a Democrat from Hoffman Estates: $76,500

Traditionally, legislative caucuses have looked to their leader to play several important roles. Fundraising is one of these, but other factors are expected to include political acumen in a divisive climate and responsiveness to caucus members. This is the first time a caucus leader has stepped down since 2003, when the new legislative map gave control of both chambers to the Democrats. Sen. Emil Jones has led the Senate Democratic Caucus since the retirement of Sen. Phil Rock in 1993.

This report is the third in a series during the final weeks of the 2008 General Election campaign season. For earlier reports, which covered contribution totals and top donors to legislative races and the constitutional convention question, visit www.ilcampaign.org. ICPR and the Sunshine Project do not endorse candidates and have not taken a position on the con-con question.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TOP 10 DONORS TO LEGISLATIVE CONTESTS GAVE $4.3 MILLION

Same Donors Gave Another $440,000 to Anti-Con-Con Group

With a week to go before Election Day, many candidates for General Assembly are raising campaign money at a furious pace and just 10 contributors account for nearly 20 percent of all funds raised by legislative candidates in recent months.

A dozen legislative races are approaching or have passed the $1 million mark; all told, legislative candidates have raised more than $20 million since July 1.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project examined campaign disclosure reports filed by incumbent legislators and candidates for the General Assembly to compile this list of top donors.

Illinois has no limits on the source or size of campaign contributions. Many of these groups have made contributions to candidates that would be illegal if made to candidates in other states or for federal office. Much of this money is reported as receipts by caucus and party leaders, who in turn transfer funds to individual candidates.

Top Donors to Legislative Incumbents and Candidates, 7/1/08-10/26/08
(1) Illinois Education Association (IEA): $877,000
(2) Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) $565,000
(3) Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and affiliates: $558,000
(4) AFSCME: $410,000
(5) Illinois Health Care Council: $398,000
(6) Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois: $389,000
(7) Illinois Hospital Association: $305,000
(8) Personal PAC: $267,000
(9) Fred Eychaner, founder of Newsweb: $253,000
(10) Illinois Association of Realtors: $251,000
(11) Illinois Chamber of Commerce: $236,000
(12) Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA): $229,000
(13) Altria Group/Philip Morris Tobacco: $228,000
(14) Service Employees International Union (SEIU): $225,000
(15) Ameren: $258,000
(16) Associated Firefighters of Illinois: $194,000
(17) Illinois Dentist Association (Dent-IL PAC): $194,000
(18) AT&T: $180,000
(19) International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150: $161,000
(20) International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399: $153,000


Many of these Top 10 donors have also helped fund the opposition to a referendum to authorize a state constitutional convention. The Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution (APIC), a political organization formed earlier this year to oppose the "con-con" has raised at least $1.2 million since July 1, including $440,000 from these top legislative donors. By contrast, two organizations in support of the con-con, Con Con Yes and Metro Chicago United PAC, have together reported total receipts of just $5,000.

Top Donors to the Alliance to Protect the Constitution
(1) Illinois Federation of Teachers and affiliated: $300,000
(2) Illinois Education Association/National Education Association: $225,000
(3) Exelon: $100,000
(4) Illinois Coalition for Jobs, Growth, and Prosperity: $92,500
(5 - tie) American Insurance Association: $50,000
(5 - tie) Health Care Services Corp: $50,000

ICPR and the Sunshine Project do not endorse candidates and have not taken a stand on the constitutional referendum. ICPR and the Sunshine Project are monitoring reports on those targeted legislative races. For a chart of contribution totals on those races, visit www.ilcampaign.org.

The Ethics of the Ethics Vote

To paraphrase a major newspaper columnist, a little bird told us that some challengers are trying to turn the vote to enact the pay-to-play ban despite Gov. Blagojevich's veto against incumbents. These challengers are apparently claiming that the vote to override the veto was a vote against ethics. Nothing could be further from the truth.

HB 824, the pay-to-play bill, was a hard-fought, carefully-vetted measure with wide support, under the dome and outside of it. The Governor's re-write was sloppy and likely unconstitutional.

After the Governor vetoed HB 824, the correct, ethical vote was to override his veto. We commend all legislators who made that decision.

Friday, October 24, 2008

EIGHT GENERAL ASSEMBLY BATTLES HAVE PASSED OR ARE NEAR THE $1 MILLION MARK AND OTHERS LIKELY TO JOIN

Southern Illinois Senate Contest Could Break $$$ Record

Campaign contributions to election battles for four state legislative seats have passed the $1 million mark, and four others should soon reach the $1 million level, according to research by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and the Sunshine Project.

One of those campaigns – a contest for state senator from the most southern district in the state – could break the $2.4 million record for most money spent by candidates running for the Illinois General Assembly.

A total of at least $1.89 million in campaign contributions has been reported by the campaigns of Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Ken W. Burzynski, a Republican also from Benton, and both candidates are still collecting contributions to pay for advertising and other expenses in the final days of the campaign.

In 2004, the combined spending of campaigns by Forby and Ron Summers, his 2004 opponent, established a new spending record of $2.4 million.

The 2008 Forby-Burzynski contribution total stands at $1.89 million. That total, as well as others totals in this report, represents the available balance of funds for each candidate on June 30 and individual contributions reported by the campaigns between July 1 to October 24. The exact amount of spending won’t be made public until next January.

The races reporting the biggest fundraising totals to date follow:

• Senate District 59, total of $1,895,099 -- Forby, $1,112,395; and Burzynski, $782,703.

• Senate District 42, total of $1,381,057 -- Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, $715,692; and Terri Ann Wintermute, a Republican from Bolingbrook, $665,364.

• House District 85, total $1,156,874 – Rep. Brent Hassert, R-Romeoville, $740,784; and Emily Klunk-McAsey, Democrat from Lockport, $416,090.

• House District 92, total $1,050,014 – Jehan Gordon, Democrat from Peoria, $531,156; and Joan Gore Krupa, Republican from Peoria Heights, $518,857.

• Senate District 26, total of $894,306 – Dan Duffy, Republican from Lake Barrington, $732,099; and Bill Gentes, Democrat from Round Lake. $162,207.

• Senate District 45, total of $874,464 – Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, $712,721; and Marty Mulcahey, Democrat from Galena, $161,742.

• Senate District 33, total of $866,042 – Sen. Daniel W. Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, $628,285; and Michael H. Sweeney, Republican from Arlington Heights, $237,757.

• House District 69, total of $833,583 – Greg Tuite, Democrat from Rockford, $538,151; and Rep. Ronald A. Waite, R-Belvidere, $295,432.

• House District 17, total of $797,872 – Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, Republican from Glenview, $447,195; and Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, $350,676.

• House District 96, total of $701,086 – Dianne A. McGuire, Democrat from Naperville, $497,659; and Darlene J. Senger, Republican from Naperville, $203,427.


Because such large sums are being contributed to these candidates, most of these races appear to be competitive or were considered to be winnable by both parties at some time during the campaign season. However, the vast majority of legislative races are dominated by one candidate, and some incumbents don’t even have an opponent on the ballot.

All 118 House seats and 39 of the 59 Senate seats are at stake this year, but many of them are uncontested. Only 21 Senate seats and 60 House seats have two or more candidates on the ballot, and of those, only about 18 total appear to be attracting substantial contributions.

ICPR and the Sunshine Project are monitoring reports on those targeted races. For a chart of contribution totals on those races, visit www.ilcampaign.org.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

YOU CAN BE A CANDIDATE AND NEVER FILE AN ACCURATE CAMPAIGN FINANCE DISCLOSURE REPORT!

Ever run up a bill for tens of thousands of dollars and not give it a second thought?

No, neither have we.

But Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, apparently wasn’t giving much thought to the $190,000 that her campaign committee owed to a company sending out campaign mailings for her campaign.

In July, the Friends of Iris Y. Martinez committee filed its semi-annual disclosure report with the State Board of Elections. This is the report that would have included receipts, expenditures and debts from her primary contest in March.

Martinez is not the only candidate filing incomplete disclosure reports, but her absentmindedness (if that’s what it was) points up yet again the need for the State Board of Elections to crack down on erroneous disclosure reports. If committees thought they might be audited and punished for failure to disclose information required by law, there would be far fewer mistakes and omissions.

None of the Martinez campaign’s reports to the State Board of Elections list the debt, and apparently we only know about it now because Rich Miller, owner of the Capital Fax newsletter and popular blogger (thecapitolfaxblog.com) thought something looked fishy.

When Rich Miller reported Tuesday in his must-read Capital Fax newsletter that the Illinois Senate Democratic Fund, controlled by Senate President Emil Jones, had given “a whopping $190,000 check” to the Martinez committee, it must have triggered some alarm bells in the Martinez campaign headquarters.

Miller and his readers were wondering why Jones would deliver such a big check after she had won a tough primary fight and her Republican opponent withdrew from the ballot back in May.

Miller reported her explanation in today’s editions. Martinez told Miller that she needed the money to pay the debt, which she had failed to report on her earlier public disclosure reports.

This all raises a few questions. What if the Senate Democratic committee had not reported the transfer of the $190,000 and Martinez had not reported receiving it? Quite likely, we never would not have known until long after Election Day. If then!

The State Board Elections doesn’t audit campaign finance reports. The Illinois campaign disclosure laws operate on the “honor system.” Even the most casual observers of Illinois politics knows that’s a mistake.

Some 3,600 campaign committees are active in Illinois. When it comes to filing accurate and complete disclosure reports, all of them operate on the honor system.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform reached a settlement with Rep. Annazette Collins, D-Chicago, who agreed to issue an apology for filing inaccurate and incomplete disclosure of contributions to her election campaigns from 2005 through 2007. Her campaign committee agreed to pay a fine of $20,000. We got to that point only because ICPR questioned why the Collins committee reported no contributions or expenditures for three years running. Collins acknowledged that her campaigns had received more than $110,000 in contributions and had spent more than $120,000 during those three years.

Maybe all that campaigning makes you forgetful.

But it reminds us of a classic Steve Martin routine.

From a 1/21/78 Saturday Night Live transcript, here’s Martin:

You.. can be a millionaire and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes! You say: "Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?"

First, get a million dollars.

Now, you say: "Steve, what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, 'You have never paid taxes'?"

Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: "I forgot!" How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don't say "I forgot"?

We hope Sen. Martinez and Rep. Collins don’t forget again and that the General Assembly directs the State Board of Elections to begin conducting random audits of campaign disclosure reports.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ICPR STUDY SAYS ILLINOIS ECONOMIC INTEREST STATEMENTS ARE WOEFULLY INADEQUATE

MOST POPULAR ANSWERS ON FORM: “NONE” AND “DOES NOT APPLY”

State and local candidates on the November ballot are required to complete “Statements of Economic Interest,” but the government form requires so little information that most answers are of little to no value to voters, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR).

Because the questions on the form seek minimal information about income, investments and potential conflicts of interest, 28 percent of all state legislators and their opponents in the 2008 election answered “none” to all eight questions on the Statement of Economic Interest (SEI).

ICPR examined SEIs filed by incumbents and candidates for the General Assembly, the six statewide officeholders and candidates for open judicial seats. The findings included:

• More than 75 percent of SEI questions were answered with “None” or “Does Not Apply.”

• A side-by-side comparison of the state and federal forms submitted by congressional candidates who are members of the Illinois General Assembly demonstrated the weakness of the Illinois SEI. The federal forms revealed information about personal income and investments that did not even have to be mentioned on the Illinois form.

• Fourteen of the 280 state legislators and challengers disclosed a “close economic association” with a lobbyist but did not – and were not required to – disclose any information about the magnitude of the “economic association.”

• Even though the Illinois Constitution and state statutes make it clear that candidates for state office must file statements of their economic interest and all do file SEIs prior to the primary election, more than one-quarter of the candidates for the General Assembly did not file updated forms prior to the May 1 deadline for filing forms detailing economic interests for 2007.

“Upwards of 100,000 public officeholders and employees complete these forms every year, and virtually all of them are worthless,” said Cynthia Canary, ICPR Director. “Voters deserve to know the sources and amounts of income and about the investments held by state and local officials, but Illinois laws are so weak that the Statements of Economic Interest hide much more than they disclose to the public.”

ICPR’s report made the following recommendations for strengthening state requirements:

• The Illinois Statement of Economic Interest should mandate reporting of the person’s source and amount of income; value of investments and income from each; the purchase and sale date of investments; and whether investments and income accrue to the filer, spouse or minor child.

• Information should be reported about investments held outside of Illinois, as well as those currently reportable investments within the state, and the disclosure threshold for investments should be low enough to capture all investments of $100 or more.

• In addition to asking the identity of any lobbyist maintaining a “close economic relationship” with the filer, the SEI should elicit information about lobbyists who are related to the filer, and the extent of their financial benefit.

• SEIs should be filed electronically and in a searchable format.

• Winners in primary elections should be required to file new reports for the previous calendar year no later than May 1 of the election year.

• Enforcement of the economic disclosure laws should be enhanced, and the Illinois Secretary of State should be required to conduct random audits to determine the accuracy of filed SEIs.

“Illinois’ Statements of Economic Interest are deplorable,” said David Morrison, Deputy Director of ICPR and lead researcher and writer of the study. “The questions on the form were drafted more to obfuscate than to enlighten. By failing to ask meaningful questions and demand detail, the questions keep potential conflicts of interest hidden, and Illinoisans are left in the dark.”

The full report can be found at www.ilcampaign.org.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zero Plus Four is a Problem for Illinois

A new Rasmussen poll cited in today's subscriber-only Capitol Fax apparently finds voters extraordinarily dissatisfied with our governor. Zero percent of respondents rated Gov. Blagojevich's job in office as "excellent" and 4% rated him "good." That's a combined 4% in the good or better department, which pollsters commonly equate with approval ratings when they don’t ask specifically about approval. And the margin of error is likely +/- 4.5%. In contrast, 29% of respondents rated the governor "fair" and 65%, nearly two out of three Illinoisans polled, rated him "poor."

Another Rasmussen survey a few months ago put the governor's approval rating at 13%. Not easy to go down from 13%, you might think. But this governor can do what no one else thinks is possible. He can unite Democrats and Republicans behind a common theme. So kudos for that.

A 2000 General Election exit survey I found on-line suggests that 32% Illinois voters held a favorable view of then-Gov. George Ryan, which was after the first two dozen Operation Safe Roads convictions but still nearly three years before he was indicted and four years before his conviction. It would seem that George Ryan was 8 times as popular as Gov. Blagojevich.

Kidding aside, this governor has got to recognize that he has a serious problem on his hands. He has no credibility on reform issues. None. Zilch. Zero. And no degree of finger pointing, no amount of pounding the bully pulpit, no number of press releases will change that. Drop the "my way or the highway" approach. Forget about "are you with us or against us". Stop using "reform" proposals as vehicles for your own private vendettas. Focus more on the good of the state and less on the ego of the office holder.

Step by step, Illinois' political culture will improve. Gov. Blagojevich wants to be the poster child for reform. Right now, he's the leading example for why Illinois needs reform. At 4%, can he turn that around?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Art for Reform's Sake

Noted Chicago-based artist Ellen Rothenberg is coordinating an installation of her large-scale prints and works by other artists around the theme "Public Address." Here's a poster for the event. What is especially humbling for us at ICPR is that she has decided to donate the proceeds from the sale of multiples to ICPR to aid in our work promoting transparency, participation, and the democratic process. "Public Address" has an opening reception this Friday the 17th of October and runs through November 9 at Phaiz, 673 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

We hope you'll join us there on Friday the 17th!



PublicAddressFinal.pdf

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New PACs

It's October and there are new PACs in the air. Here's a listing of some interesting ones. Details on all of these are available through the State Board of Elections website; search committees by either the name or the State ID.


Senate President PACs

Sen. John Cullerton has a new PAC, formed September 8, called Senate Democratic Victory Fund (State ID 9796; or S9796). It shows $35,500 in receipts, including $25K from the Hospitals. Sen. Jeff Schoenberg has one, too: "Deep Blue PAC" (S9815) formed October 6; it's purpose is to "Support Democratic candidates for Illinois Senate and other offices." It shows $200K total; $100K each from Schoenberg's regular fund and from JB Pritzker.


Con Con PACs:

Metro Chicago United PAC (S9797) is one PAC that urges a yes vote for the Constitutional Convention. Another is Con Con Yes (S9806). Neither report any receipts, as of yet. The only Anti-Con Con PAC I know of, the Alliance to Protect the Constitution (S9745), formed a few months ago and shows $275K in receipts.


Tomorrow's Candidates

Tomorrow's Democrats (S9799) is a metro-east area group to "recruit young professionals to the Democratic Party." It's chaired by Brendon Kelly, whose name is too familiar for me to recognize.

Doug Whitley has formed Whitley for Governor (S9804). And possibly unrelated, Randy White for Lt. Gov is S9809. Neither shows receipts yet.

Friends of Emil Jones III is S9810. It was formed too recently to report any receipts. Of course, he is running against a former clown, so maybe he doesn't need any.


Other New PACs of Note:

There's a new Move Illinois Forward, but this one is chaired by Boyd Ingemunson, and I can't imagine why he chose that name. It's S9777.

Dan Duffy is running for Senate and his main PAC is S9459, but he and Rep. Ed Sullivan have also formed Clover PAC (S9769) to support "Dan Duffy and Ed Sullivan" and other like-minded pro-business candidates.

The Painters District #14 has formed a PAC (Painters District #14 Council PAC). It's S9765. What's remarkable is that they report $349,445.66 in receipts in the first half of the year, including $110,683.89 in non-itemized receipts (which suggests a minimum of 738 donors). They used to give directly; now they're giving through a PAC, and (I'd guess) soliciting members to fund it.

Professional Towing & Recovery PAC (S9759) is not based in Lincoln Park but both of the officers have a good "aarrgh" in their names (well, the chair is William Howard, but the treasurer is Richard Bartell.) So maybe these are Pirates after all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just Weeks to Election Day - Get your information here

The 2008 General Election is just 25 days away. As voters turn more and more attention to the contested seats on this fall's ballot, ICPR is stepping up and posting more and more information to our website, ilcampaign.org. The site now includes:

* Updated campaign receipt and expenditure data through June 30, 2008 for all legislative and judicial candidates, as well as incumbents not seeking re-election and the statewide constitutionals.

* ICPR's candidate questionnaire replies. Nearly 100 candidates told us where they stand on reform issues; voters can find out by clicking here.

* Our Voters Guide asked candidates for judicial office about their background; their replies can be found here.

* Our list of career patrons and profiles of large donors have all been updated.


Candidates began to file A1 reports earlier this week (A1 reports cover campaign contributions of more than $500, and are filed within two working days of receipt). The Pre-Election disclosure report, listing all reportable contributions between July 1 and October 5, may also be available, though the deadline for filing is about two weeks away. Those raw reports are available through the State Board of Elections website.

Check back to ICPR for updates on the top legislative races and interesting donors. It's all at ilcampaign.org.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tollway Revolving Door Opens Ethics Questions

Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Director Brian McPartlin announced today that he is leaving the tollway and taking a job with McDonough Associates. McDonough Associates is a major Tollway contractor; their contracts in FY09 (ie, in the last three months) total more than $20 million, significantly more than any other year since FY05 and nearly triple the value of their FY08 contracts.

If you think this looks awful, we agree.

The 2003 Ethics Act contains provisions intended to shut the revolving door between state officials and their contractors by prohibiting employment with a contractor for one year after leaving the state agency. McPartlin says he received a waiver from that prohibition. According to the law, the Executive Ethics Commission "shall … grant… [a waiver] upon a showing that the prospective employment or relationship did not affect" the issuance of contracts.

So what to do here? Let's start with some questions. When did he start a job search? Did he approach this company or did the company approach him? Has he negotiated with other firms? When he began talks with this company, did he notify his board and remove himself from any Tollway matters with the firm? When did he get the waiver? Were any contracts awarded after he applied for the waiver?

But it seems we should also take another look at the 2003 Act. ICPR has supported Sunshine in Ethics laws in the past, and we continue to think that the 2003 Act ought to be tweaked to give the public more confidence in how the law is carried out. Currently, the EEC does not disclose who applied for waivers, or even who got them. The law greatly limits what the two Ethics Commissions can tell the public about their work. While this is appropriate at the time of an allegation, we continue to think that the Commissions should be able to say more about final decisions.

It may also be wise to give the Commissions more discretion when considering to grant waivers. That "shall" in the statute doesn't give the Commissions room for deliberation.

The 2003 Act was a gigantic leap forward for the state, but it was not the final word. It's been amended at least four times since it was enacted. McPartlin's departure shows it may be time for another tweaking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ICPR WELCOMES REJECTION OF GOVERNOR’S VETO OF PAY-TO-PLAY REFORM LEGISLATION

The Illinois Senate on Monday rejected Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of House Bill 824, legislation banning political contributions by state contractors to the officeholder awarding the contract. Because the House previously voted overwhelmingly in favor of overriding the veto, the Senate approval is final action, and the original bill will become law on January 1, 2009.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) released the following statement from Cynthia Canary, Director of ICPR:

“So many big campaign contributors have wound up with state contracts that Illinois has won a reputation as a state where you have to pay a campaign fund to win a government contract. Over time, pay-to-play schemes seemed so numerous that some honest contractors stopped trying to do business with state government, driving up costs to taxpayers and making Illinoisans question the honesty and fairness of their state government.

“By enacting these reforms, the General Assembly has made it much more difficult for pay-to-play to flourish. Unethical officeholders and contractors still will look for ways to game the system, but better rules will be in place to police contracting and to make it more difficult for favors to be awarded in exchange for campaign funds.

“More must be done to improve the fairness of Illinois elections and government. There should be reasonable limits on the amount of money anyone can give to all political candidates. We need improved disclosure of lobbyist activities and enforcement of laws regulating lobbyists. We should lessen the influence of special interest money in judicial election campaigns. We should strengthen the enforcement of campaign and government disclosure laws.

“The reform community greatly appreciates the perseverance of the sponsors of HB 824, the support of most of the leaders of the General Assembly, and the commitment of five of the six statewide elected leaders. The General Assembly has listened to the people of Illinois and enacted much needed pay-to-play reforms. We now need to work together to build on that reform and do more to improve the integrity, accountability and transparency of state government.”

# # #

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Senate to Reconvene: Emil Jones

We've been asking you to call the Senate President's office and demand that he reconvene his chamber. It appears your calls have worked. Media reports now indicate that the Senate will reconvene next week. Thanks to your efforts, the Senate will have an opportunity to address the Pay to Play bill, among other things.

Now, we should apologize to those of you who tried to call the President's Chicago office. Some of you called to let us know that no one was answering. Your calls filled his voice mail. But those calls worked. President Jones says he's doing this for his "my friend" and former colleague, U.S. Sen, Barack Obama. But make no mistake, if all of you had sat silently, this session would not be happening.

Not to be left out, Gov. Blagojevich then announced a Special Session for Monday the 22nd at 1 pm to deal with "real ethics reform." So the ball is definitely rolling.

We thank you all for speaking up to protect this important legislation from almost certain death or legal challenge.

Now, on to Springfield!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reconvene the Senate Now

To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, Monday saw the most extraordinary collection of talent and knowledge gathered in one room since Thomas Jefferson dined alone. Now, it's your turn to take action. Please call Senate President Emil Jones and urge him to reconvene the Senate. Here's why:

At Monday's press conference in the James R. Thompson Center, those gathered at the podium included Comptroller Dan Hynes, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Lt Gov Pat Quinn, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Sen. Don Harmon, Sen. Debbie Halvorson, Sen. Terry Link, Sen. Susan Garrett, Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, Sen. Ira Silverstein, Sen. Kirk Dillard, Sen. Christine Radogno, Sen. Matt Murphy, Sen. Bill Brady, Sen. Pamela Althoff., former Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, ICPR Director Cindi Canary, BGA Director Jay Stewart, Citizen Action Director William McNary, Citizen Advocacy Center Director Terry Pastica, Illinois PIRG Director Brian Imus, League of Women Voters of Illinois President Paula Lawson, and the Rev. Al Sharp, the Director of Protestants for the Common Good.

What brought all these people together was one simple idea: The Illinois State Senate must immediately reconvene to address HB 824, the pay to play bill. Now, not later. Not after the Election, and certainly not more than 15 days since the House sent HB 824 back to the Senate to override the Governor's veto.

Waiting invites legal challenge. The state Constitution says that if either chamber takes longer than 15 calendar days to act on a veto, the underlying bill dies. Senate President Emil Jones claims the 15 day clock does not start running until the Senate reconvenes, but that argument has never been tested in court, and we do not want the pay-to-play bill to become the test case. Why let reform be tied up in court for years? Indeed, why wait at all? The message that united all of those elected officials and public advocates was simply this: reconvene now.

Here's some press coverage on the conference, from Crain's Chicago Business, the Chicago Sun-Times, the
AP via the Tribune, and the
Kankakee Daily Journal. And some editorials, from Bloomington Pantagraph (Today) the Rockford Register Star (Today), the Chicago Tribune (Monday), the Belleville News Democrat (Today), and the Jacksonville Journal Courier (Today):

Now it's your turn. Please call the Senate President at either 217-782-2728 or 773-995-7748 and tell him to bring his chamber back into session. His members want it. The public deserves it. Why wait?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dr. Blagojevich, you’ve created a monster!

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been called a lot of things, but The Peoria Journal Star may be the first to equate him with the mad scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

In a September 4th editorial headlined “Governor creates monster of an ethics bill,” The Journal Star says the General Assembly should override the governor’s amendatory veto of House Bill 824, which would prohibit everyone with large state contracts from making campaign contributions to the officeholder awarding the contract.

The editorial criticized “Dr. Blagojevich” for proposing major changes that should be debated but not forced on the General Assembly. “When he was done doctoring HB 824, it looked nothing like the original – instead becoming an amalgam of extra parts. Basically, Blagojevich stitched together the Frankenstein of ethics reform. Now he’s unleashed his clumsy creation on Springfield.”

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform agrees. This monster needs to be killed with an override by the House and Senate. If this creature isn’t killed, it could destroy the negotiated agreement to discourage pay-to-play contracting.

The editorial is timely because the House will be back in session next week to consider leasing the State Lottery as a funding mechanism for a multibillion-dollar construction program, and the amendatory veto of HB 824 also may be called for a vote. Before the General Assembly agrees to any new capital plan, it should make certain that the pay-to-play safeguards of HB 824 are in statute.

The Peoria Journal Star is one of many newspapers calling for an override of the veto of HB 824.

Although the others didn’t compare Gov. Blagojevich to Dr. Frankenstein, most were just as blunt in describing his veto and his executive order to extend the contribution ban to the legislative branch, state political parties and any officeholder, regardless of what office awarded the contract,

Here’s a sampling.

The Rockford Register-Star: “Legislators have vowed to override the Blagojevich veto. They should do so, and quickly. No more shams from the Flimflam Man!”

The Southern Illinoisan: “The governor blew it. He could have affixed his signature and shared in the credit for a change for the better in Illinois.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “With a 60 percent vote in both houses, the General Assembly can override an amendatory veto and pass the original bill. Legislators should do so promptly. The people of Illinois are tired of crooked government.”

The State Journal-Register: “In the first half of 2008 alone, Blagojevich received $238,500 in campaign contributions from businesses or employees of businesses that have contracts worth more than $50,000 with agencies under the governor’s control, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. 
So forgive us if we take the governor’s sudden reform movement — and his impulse to author radically new ethics and fundraising legislation — with a grain of salt the size of Lincoln’s Tomb. We hope the legislature does the same this fall and restores the ethics and campaign finance bills to their original form.”

The Decatur Herald & Review: “. . . the governor's action shows he's really not interested in ethics reform.”

The Moline Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus: “The amendatory veto message he signed last week dripped with hypocrisy. This is, after all, the governor who spent months enriching his campaign chest with money from state contractors. Now he wants to ban such contributions?”

The Chicago Sun-Times: “Being governor, it turns out, doesn't give anyone the right to rule by fiat. That's especially true when you risk constitutional challenges that can force the state back to square one.”

The Chicago Tribune: “It's not a perfect bill, but it's a solid bill that this page has repeatedly urged the governor to sign. Just as we now urge legislators to override his veto of it. As is, the people of Illinois stand confronted with more of the Blagojevichian antics that have made him so untrustworthy. Rather than push legislators to write his "improvements" into law, he'd rather grandstand for the cameras, make noise about reform, and hope that—with public attention focused on the Democratic National Convention in Denver—nobody is paying much attention to the culture of political sleaze back home in Illinois.”



Well said.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sen. Emil Jones' Campaign Fund: a half-million dollar personal bank account?

With press reports indicating this morning that Senate President Emil Jones is planning a retirement, we once again look at the campaign finance records to see how much a departing legislator could take with him for his own personal use.

Senate President Jones' main campaign account is Citizens for Emil Jones. Formed in 1974, it has State ID 188; one of the lowest of the currently active PAC numbers. The committee reported $577,605.04 in cash on hand as of June 30, 1998. That report listed no investments, but it did claim outstanding loans of $3,300, which may be in addition to the cash balance. State law bars candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, but grandfathers funds raised prior to June 30, 1998. So, that's the amount that President Jones could take from his campaign fund for personal use (provided that he pays income taxes on it).

It's worth noting that Sen. Jones is not required to take any money from the PAC for personal use; it's strictly up to him. Nor does he have to take any action any time soon; he has until the committee dissolves, whenever that may be.

Senate President Jones also chairs the Illinois Senate Democratic Fund (State ID 6920). That fund exists to "Support Democratic Candidates For State Office" so it's unlikely that any of that money would be available to Jones personally, though Jones has chaired the Fund since its inception in 1997. It claimed a balance on June 30, 1998 of $629,451.12. In looking up that balance, I also noticed that the Treasurer of the Fund is and has always been Courtney Nottage. Nottage worked on Jones' staff in 1997, but since February, 2005, he's been a lobbyist with Fletcher, Topol, O'Brien and Kasper, where his clients have included Com Ed, Arlington Park, and many others.

Jones owes substantial debts to his Citizens for Emil Jones, having borrowed some $120,000 from the fund over the past decade. These debts, typically in $300-$500 increments, have been only partly paid back. It appears from the most recent disclosure reports that he owes his campaign fund in excess of $30,000.

Any succession to the office of Senate President will play out on many fronts: personal, tactical, political. The decision will also have clear policy implications. While Democrats run all statewide offices and both chambers of the legislature, infighting between the Governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President have resulted in gridlock that stymied a broad range of bills. The Senate has an opportunity that does not come along very often, and we hope they not only find a leader capable of guiding the upper chamber to thoughtful, reasoned, and wise decisions, but also one who is committed to democratizing the caucus, reforming campaign finance, and ensuring far more openness in the process.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Amerigroup giving

Today's Sun-Times reports that Buffalo Grove resident Cleveland Tyson is due to receive $56.25 million for information leading to the federal fraud conviction of Amerigroup, a Medicaid provider. Based largely on evidence provided by Tyson, an employee of Amerigroup, federal prosecutors proved that the company billed state and federal authorities for coverage they did not provide. An October, 2006 jury trial concluded that the company, under contract to insure tens of thousands of people, in fact refused to provide care for pregnant women and people with serious illnesses. After the jury found Amerigroup guilty, the company settled with federal prosecutors for $225 million.

Amerigroup is no stranger to the campaign finance records; they have given more than $140,000 to candidates for statewide and legislative office in Illinois. If you're looking for another angle on this story, here's a list of their top recipients, and how much they gave to each:

(1) Gov. Rod Blagojevich: $37,500
(2) Senate President Emil Jones: $16,400
(3) House Speaker Michael J. Madigan: $10,000
(4) State Sen. Rickey Hendon: $9,500
(5) U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (State committee only): $8,500

Thursday, July 31, 2008

WellPaying Contributor to Blagojevich Back in the News

A couple of years ago, reports in the Tribune, Crain's, and the State Journal Register linked five bundled donations to Gov. Blagojevich's campaign with the All Kids health insurance program and the contract to manage it. New reports out today suggest that pattern may be repeating itself, this time in Florida.

Today's news report indicates that WellCare is "the biggest campaign contributor to Republican state House candidate Will Pruitt " and that "Pruitt received 20 separate $500 contributions, the limit for individual contributions, from WellCare Health Plans Inc. and its subsidiaries: WCG Health Management, Comprehensive Logistics, Comprehensive Health and Healthease."

If that sounds familiar, it should. On Nov. 21, 2005, WellCare made 5 separate $20,000 donations to Gov. Blagojevich's campaign. Those donations, made through subsidiaries including WellCare Health Plans Inc and WCG Health Management, came less than a week after the Governor signed into law his All Kids insurance program.

WellCare also hired Blagojevich protégé John Wyma in August of 2005; in January, 2006, another WellCare subsidiary, Harmony Health Care, hired Wyma, and has retained Wyma ever since.

At the time they hired Wyma and made the $100K in donations to the governor's campaign fund, Harmony Health Care held a $99M contract with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. That contract grew to $110M n FY07, $150M in FY08, and $162M in the current fiscal year. That's almost a two-thirds increase in their contract value in just three short years.

There may be more. According to Forbes, WellCare is under investigation by the FBI for possible Medicare fraud in Florida and Illinois. The company has acknowledged errors in both states.

Is there a pattern of bundling donations through subsidiaries to win state contracts? Either way, it's time to cut the connection between campaign money and state contracts.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ICPR SAYS NO TO MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR SPENDING WITHOUT PAY-TO-PLAY REFORMS

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform urges legislative leaders to insist Gov. Blagojevich accept limitations on pay-to-play contracting as part of any new multibillion-dollar capital plan.

Gov. Blagojevich has called legislative leaders to a meeting Thursday to negotiate a capital construction program, reportedly in the range of $20 billion to $34 billion.

“House Bill 824, now sitting on the governor’s desk, would ban businesses with state contracts from making campaign contributions to the officeholder awarding the contract,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of ICPR. “The governor should sign HB 824 and give the public some confidence the billions of dollars in news spending would be done fairly and would not be directed at the wallets of the businesses contributing to his campaign fund.”

In the first 30 days after the General Assembly passed HB 824, the governor’s campaign committee actively solicited contributions from businesses with state contracts and collected at least $250,000 from state contractors in that short period of time, according to a Chicago Tribune investigation.

“The governor claims he wants billions in new infrastructure spending to create jobs and to guard against a bridge collapse as happened in Minneapolis last year,” Canary said. “But after years of headlines about contracts that look more like pay-to-play than legitimate state business, taxpayers have to wonder whether his top concern is bridge safety or building up his campaign treasury.

“If he would sign the bill to discourage pay-to-play and stop soliciting money from people doing business with the state, he would give the public reason to believe those new construction dollars would be spent fairly,” she said. “Legislative leaders should insist HB 824 is signed into law before giving the governor the ability to award billions in new spending for bridges, roads, and other projects.”

State contractor: Stop me before I give money to the governor again

Illinois campaign finance disclosure reports tell who gave how much to whom, and when, but they don't tell why. And “why” is the most interesting question. For Today's Trib story, reporters John Chase and David Kidwell called some donors – all with state contracts -- and asked that question. Some of the answers were surprisingly candid.

One contractor with more than $40 million in road construction contracts said he wished Gov. Blagojevich would sign pending legislation prohibiting contributions by contractors: "I'd like to see it signed because it will save me money. We won't have to contribute anything. I wouldn't even have to entertain the idea of supporting him . . . or her or anyone."

The legislation aimed at pay-to-play politics (House Bill 824) has been sitting on the governor's desk for 30 days. During those 30 days, the Blagojevich campaign committee has collected “more than a quarter of a million dollars from people who do business with the state,” according to that same Tribune story by Chase and Kidwell.

The governor has another month to go before he acts on HB 824, but he may be more interested in a different deadline – January 1, 2009. That’s the effective date of HB 824, if it becomes law with his signature or an override of his veto. He has at least five more months to ask state contractors for campaign contributions and five more months for reporters to ask state contractors why they give. All the more reason to urge him to sign it now , without making any changes.

It also is worth noting that very few people currently give to Illinois state politicians. A few years ago, we estimated the number of donors who give large donation -- $10,000 or more -- at less than one half of one tenth of one percent of all people in Illinois. That tiny pool of donors accounts for most of the money raised by candidates for state office. But why do they give?

Monday, July 28, 2008

State Rep Annazette Collins reports $110K in contributions; apologizes for not telling anyone.

State Rep. Annazette Collins, D-Chicago, has agreed to issue an apology for filing inaccurate and incomplete disclosure of contributions to her election campaigns from 2005 through 2007, and her campaign committee will pay a fine of $20,000 to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

After the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform questioned why the Collins committee reported no contributions or expenditures for three years running, Collins acknowledged that her campaigns had received more than $110,000 in contributions and had spent more than $120,000 during those three years.

The public apology and fine are part of a settlement agreement between the Friends of Annazette Collins political action committee and ICPR, which lodged a complaint against the committee earlier this year. The State Board of Elections recently voted to accept the settlement agreement.

Following a hearing before the Illinois State Board of Elections, the Collins committee filed 18 amended reports revealing $110,301 in receipts and $120,794 in expenditures from 2005 through 2007.

“Illinois has no restrictions on who can give or how much anyone can contribute to campaigns, but the law does require candidates to tell the public the amounts and sources of their campaign money and details of how it is spent,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of ICPR. “It is a weak system that has been made even weaker by a history of timid oversight by state authorities.

Under terms of the agreement signed by her attorney and accepted by the Illinois State Board of Elections, Collins has 30 days to issue a public statement acknowledging the negligence by her committee. The statement will include an admission that voters did not have the important campaign finance information that they are entitled to by law, an apology for any confusion they may have caused, and a commitment to file complete and accurate finance reports in the future.

To view the settlement agreement and ICPR’s original complaint, go to www.ilcampaign.org.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blagojevich's Lost Fundraiser

October 24, 2007, was a busy day in Illinois. The newspapers were full of stories about Comptroller Dan Hynes' new Open Book website making it easy to track campaign contributions AND state contracts. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court ruled against former Gov. George Ryan's appeal of his criminal conviction. And it appears that Gov. Rod Blagojevich held a campaign fundraiser. It was a big fundraiser, apparently; so big that maybe in all of the excitement he just forgot about some of the donations.

Last Monday, Friends of Blagojevich filed an amendment to its disclosure report for the last half of 2007. The amendment cleaned up some of the listings and reshuffled some of the donations. It also disclosed for the first time six donations that had been left off the earlier report.

What did they forget? A $10K check from Destefano & Partners. A Destefano Partners had a contract with the Capital Development Board for $3.5M in FY08. That's up from $520 (yes, that's five hundred and twenty dollars) in FY07 (Destefano Partners has a contract worth $1.6M in FY09. FY07 was an unusual year for the firm, which had about $500K per year the previous three years).

Friends of Blagojevich also forgot a $5K check from the Capitol Avenue PAC. The PAC is associated with the principals at Government Consulting Solutions, a lobbying firm whose offices are on West Capitol Avenue in Springfield and whose lobbying activities involved the Office of the Governor, IDOT, DNR, DCEO, and the Liquor Control Board, in addition to the General Assembly.

The Governor's PAC also forgot a $5K check from Eight LP, a $500 check from Heritage Builders, a $5K check from 315 W. North Ave LP, and $10K check from Parsons. All of these checks were received on October 24. That same day, Friends of Blagojevich received another 40 or so donations that were reported on the original disclosure form, including a separate $1,000 check from Capitol Avenue PAC.

Friends of Blagojevich also forgot to report a $1K check from Boeing, received on September 7. But I can't see that anything interesting happened that day.

Maybe when you're raising money as fast as the Governor, some things just get lost.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

State contractors continue contributing to Gov. Blagojevich

It is still business as usual for Gov. Blagojevich, the only statewide officeholder taking campaign contributions from companies with state-paid contracts awarded by his office or agencies under his control.

Yesterday, the Blagojevich campaign committee filed campaign disclosure reports for the first half of 2008, and we have found dozens of contributions from people and businesses connected to state contracts. In a preliminary look through his report, we found 70 that appear, on their face, to be from businesses or employees of businesses that have FY09 contracts from agencies under his control worth more than $50,000. Those donations total $238,500. That's about 22% of his itemized individual donations, or 12.6% of all the contributions to his campaign.

We did not look too closely for parent, sibling, or subsidiary businesses with contracts, or for people for whom the campaign did not provide occupation and employer information, so the numbers with contracts could be higher.

Of course, we're interested in these contributions by contractors because House Bill 824 awaits action by the Governor. If signed into law, HB 824 would prohibit large state contractors from making contributions to the political committee of the officeholder awarding the contract. Passed without any dissent by the General Assembly, HB 824 would limit pay-to-play opportunities in state contracting.

If you want to do your own searching, we recommend the Comptrollers' contractor search site. (http://www.wh1.ioc.state.il.us/QuickTake/Contracts/index.cfm). Its Open Book service is terrific. But because new campaign reports were just filed with the State Board of Elections, it may be a bit out of date today. Give it a week or so go catch up. The contractor search page is updated daily, and covers most of the statewide officers (some agencies, like the Illinois Finance Authority, are not included, but most are).

Here are some of the highlights of what we found:

Alfred Benesch and Company has $17M in FY09 contracts, up from $7.5M in FY08. That includes $12.4M with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and $4.6M with IDOT. The company gave a single $5K check on June 27 and employees gave another $19,500 over the course of the six month disclosure period.

Burns + McDonnell Engineering has $14.4M in FY 09 contracts, up from $5.1M in FY08. That includes $12M with ISTHA and $2M with IDOT. The company gave $15K on June 4.

Civiltech Engineering has $7.5M in FY09 contracts, up from $5.1M in FY08. That includes $4.6M in ISTHA and $2.8M in IDOT. The company wrote a $10K check on June 17.

V3 Companies of Illinois has $9.5M in FY09 contracts, up from $4.9M in FY08. Nearly all of the money is with ISTHA. The company wrote two checks: one for $4K on April 7 and a second for $10K on June 17.

Entran has $1.9M in FY09 contracts, down from $2.4M in FY08. Nearly all the FY09 contracts are with IDOT. The company wrote one check for $13,750 on June 20.

Let us know what you see!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pay-to-Play Bill Sent to Governor

After a few weeks of talk and predictions, the Governor now has HB 824 on his desk. He has 60 days to take action -- until Friday, August 29. Among his options: he can sign it, he could veto it, he could amend it, or he could allow it to become law without his signature. The bill, percolating for years, finally took shape after weeks of intensive negotiations -- during which time the Governor declined to take part. Despite the bill's passage with nary a dissenting vote, any effort to change the scope of this reform is likely to kill the measure. For that reason, reformers of all stripes have called on the Governor to sign the bill as it is. We at ICPR are happy to talk with the Governor about other, broader reforms once this one is put on the books, but the Governor must demonstrate that he is sincere about enacting reform, not just talking about it. To that end, he should sign this bill as it is. To lend your voice to this discussion, why not send the Governor an e-mail?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Illinoisans Trust Reform is Possible

A poll commissioned by the Midwest Democracy Network of voters in five Midwestern states found great distrust in state government and an urgent demand for reform. Over half of Illinois voters (55%) said that Gov. Blagojevich is doing a "poor" job in office. Just under a third (31%) said he's doing a "fair" job, while 13% said he's doing a "good job." The General Assembly fared only slightly better: 26% said it was doing a "poor" job while a majority (52%) said the General Assembly is doing "fair" and 17% ranked its performance as "good." Voters ranked "corruption in state government" as their second biggest concern, after high gasoline prices. But the survey also found that reform is possible: by a 2:1 margin, voters disagree that "corruption in government will always be a problem." The results of the survey, including rankings of 15 possible reforms, are posted on ICPR's website. .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

ICPR Statement on the Conviction of Tony Rezko

The Rezko convictions come after years and years of other trials and other headlines about corruption in state government, including jobs, contracts and favors sold in exchange for campaign contributions and bribes.

Everyone in government - from the governor on down - must come to grips with the damage being done. Not only has the public been deprived of fair value for its tax dollars, but their confidence in the integrity of government--and public servants--has been severely eroded.

Our leaders need to get serious about cleaning up state government. This trial has shown that "business as usual" has flourished under this governor. He came into office promising better government, but that promise rings hollow today. After signing the pay-to-play prohibitions into law without changes, the governor should work with legislative leaders and make further campaign finance and lobbying reforms a top priority.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Who is he kidding?

In interviews after the legislature gave final approval to a bill banning pay-to-play in state contracting, Gov. Blagojevich and his spokespeople have been doing all they can to muddy up the issue. The pay-to-play bill passed without a single "no" vote; it has 118 sponsors in the House and 42 in the Senate. They say they're looking forward to adding in additional language, that they are disappointed that the legislature didn't embrace larger reforms. But who is he kidding?

His interest in larger reforms is news to the reform community. We have been working consistently for the past decade to improve Illinois' political climate. Gov. Blagojevich talks about reform only when it looks like we're making progress, and only in ways that threaten to derail that progress.

In this legislative session, we've been hard at work and the governor has been consistently silent. He now says he wants to see changes to Illinois' campaign finance laws, perhaps that cover the legislature? We've been working on legislation that does just that, HB 3497, for over a year and a half, without any help from his office. He now wants to look at lobbyist regulation? We've been working on legislation that does just that, HB 8, for over a year and a half, without any help from his office. He now thinks the pay-to-play bill doesn't go far enough? His office knew all along where the bill was and what was in it; if he wanted to offer suggestions, there was a time for that. But on this vehicle, the time for comments, suggestions, and changes has passed.

We're still open to talking about broader reforms. If the Governor wants to engage on these issues, we're eager to engage with him. There are plenty of other areas that need improvement, and other bills to get us there. But he needs to get serious, stop the name calling, and sign the bill. If Gov. Blagojevich respects the deliberative process, he will sign HB 824 as it is and join with us in working toward other, future reform bills.

Friday, May 30, 2008

REFORM ADVOCATES CALL ON GOV. BLAGOJEVICH TO STOP ACCEPTING CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM STATE CONTRACTORS

The leaders of seven Illinois government reform organizations urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich to sign House Bill 824, which would limit pay-to-play opportunities in state contracting and called on Blagojevich to stop soliciting and accepting contributions from state contractors.

The House passed the legislation Saturday by a vote of 114 to 0. The Senate earlier approved the bill on a vote of 56 to 0.

"Illinois taxpayers are fed up with corruption in state government and the high cost of pay-to-play contracting," said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "Passage of this bill signals legislators are coming to grips with the damage that has been done to public confidence in the fairness of state government. If Gov. Blagojevich really does believe in ending 'business as usual,' he will sign this bill and direct his campaign committee - immediately - to stop soliciting and accepting contributions from state contractors."

In a letter to Blagojevich, the reform advocates noted that the five other statewide officeholders have policies against accepting contributions from contractors doing business with their offices. If signed into law, HB 824 would take effect January 1, 2009, but Blagojevich should put the policy into effect for his campaign organization immediately, according to the advocates.

The letter was signed by the Better Government Association, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois PIRG, the Sunshine Project, the Citizen Advocacy Center, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and Protestants for the Common Good.

A copy of the letter is attached. More information about HB 824 is available at www.ilcampaign.org.

CampaignReformLetterMay31-08.doc

The slow but steady march of reform

HB 824, to address pay-to-play, is waiting its turn in the House for a concurrence vote, but in the meantime, the House did send to the governor two smaller reform measures. SB 2190 redefines "political committees" under the Election Code to make clear that groups supporting or opposing the placement of public questions on the ballot are covered by Illinois' disclosure requirements. SB 2191 addresses the pre-election period, forbidding committees to avoid disclosure by making a series of smaller donations to participating candidates. Neither of these, in themselves, is as significant as the pay-to-play measure, but these two are certainly part of the on-going effort to improve campaigns in Illinois. ICPR supported these bills in committee, and we urge the Governor to sign them into law.