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?