Thursday, April 15, 2010

House Democrats say "no" House Democratic campaign finance bill

Today was, like so many other days, a strange one underneath the dome in Springfield.

That's because today, Democrats swatted down GOP efforts to eject two campaign finance bills from committee and force votes on the legislation. Both proposals would have closed the loophole in Illinois' new campaign finance system, which neglects to limit the amount of money political parties and legislative leaders can contribute directly to candidates.

But what's strange is that one of those bills that Democrats voted against was introduced and sponsored by members of their caucus.

ICPR and other reform advocates have pushed for this loophole to be closed, and lawmakers in both chambers -- and on both sides of the aisle -- introduced legislation this year to cap leader and party giving.

But, just as Democrats ignored reformers' pleas last fall, they also have ignored efforts to close the loophole this spring. Both Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton, have prevented those so-called trailer bills from advancing out of committee or being called for a vote.

Earlier in the session, House Republican Leader Tom Cross tried -- unsuccessfully -- to force a vote on the loophole-closing campaign finance bill he's sponsoring, HB 5008. Cross used a parliamentary move to eject his bill from committee. But House rules require a 3/5 supermajority of lawmakers to vote to override the Speaker's ruling and force the bill out of committee, and the GOP minority's effort was unsuccessful.

Today, Cross attempted the same maneuver on his proposal, and with the same result. Democrats -- with the exception of Charles Jefferson from Rockford -- voted to keep Cross' campaign finance bill in committee and thus, prevent the bill from being called for a vote on the House floor.

That's where the unusual part starts.

After failing to get a vote on his campaign finance bill, Cross attempted to use the same parliamentary move to eject a similar, Democrat-sponsored bill, HB 6200. Democrats voted in lockstep to keep the bill bottled up in committee. (Even Charles Jefferson voted to keep the trailer bill in committee.)

Even HB 6200's own Democratic sponsors, Reps. Karen May and Jack Franks, voted against their bill.

(Republicans' similar effort to force a vote on the Fair Map Amendment, which is HJRCA 56, also failed.)

Republicans have signaled that they intend to make reform -- or Democrats' lack thereof -- an issue in the November general election. And the need to complete Illinois' campaign finance system, through the creation of limits on party-to-candidate giving, remains unchanged.

We urge the Democrats to allow a full vote on these campaign finance bills -- or even better, pass one of them.

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