Thursday, March 17, 2011

ICPR Testimony on Party and Caucus Transfers

The Election Law Subcommittee of the Senate Executive Committee met yesterday to hear SB 1272, which would set limits on transfers from parties and caucuses to candidates in General Elections. ICPR's testimony is posted below. Alas, at the end of the hearing, the bill was held in subcommittee.

Statement of David Morrison
Deputy Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
Before the Election Law Subcommittee of the Senate Executive Committee

March 16, 2011

Good morning distinguished members of the Election Law Subcommittee. My name is David Morrison, and I am the Deputy Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. As you know, ICPR was an active participant in negotiations over the current campaign finance law, and we are here today to support continued dialogue over how best to regulate campaign finance in Illinois.

Illinois was long a hold-out in the national movement to address the fact and appearance of corruption that arises when private interests are allowed to make unlimited contributions to candidates for elected office. It was not until Rod Blagojevich was arrested and charged with federal crimes, and then impeached and removed from office by this General Assembly, that the Illinois acknowledged how large donations can work a corrupting influence over public policy. Gov. Blagojevich sold public jobs, state contracts, and appointments to state boards and commissions; his associates used the promise of state pension fund placements and other state actions to shake down citizens, all with the goal of generating resources for his political campaigns.

Against that background, Illinois enacted contribution limits in 2009, which took effect earlier this year. The new law went a long way toward shielding the public sphere from the perverse influence of private money. The one area on which we could not reach agreement was party and caucus transfers during General Elections. SB 1272 could close that circle.

ICPR supports limits on parties and caucuses in General Elections for two reasons.

• One, we believe that what's good for the goose is good for the gander, which is to say that candidates should not be so dependent on transfers from parties and caucuses in hotly contested races and that such reliance creates the impression of a debt owed.

• Two, leaving parties and caucuses unlimited creates a moral hazard, where parties and caucuses may become tempted to serve as conduits for money that candidates themselves cannot legally accept. If a donor has maxed out to a candidate, they may be drawn to the party or caucus to move that money to the candidate. Without a limit on such transfers, there is no cost to the party or caucus to play that role. Limiting parties and caucuses will protect the integrity of those two entities.

ICPR supports SB 1272 and HB 1344. These bills include limits on parties and caucuses in general elections, and I note that these are not the same limits that are currently set in primary elections. ICPR recognizes that parties and caucuses have traditionally played different roles in these two elections, and so there is some justification for different limits in generals. While we are not wedded to the same limits, we are committed to enacting reasonable limits in general elections, and urge you to do so.

Thank you.

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