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.