“You want to know my philosophy?” Illinois’ new governor Patrick Quinn asked. “One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster.”
Given what the last 6 years has brought the state, most would agree that the new Illinois governor, its 41st, has the right attitude for the job. But Illinois’ political history is brimming with stories of corruption dating back decades. The time for reform is ripe.
Today I attended a meeting of the Illinois Reform Coalition as an observer and member of the Union League Club of Chicago’s Public Affairs Committee. The Illinois Reform Coalition is composed of some of Illinois leaders from the ranks of business, religion, associations, government and labor. By the enthusiasm displayed, these members are keenly aware of the need to break the mold of Illinois political corruption highlighted by the “sale to the highest bidder” the senate seat of President Obama.
However, there are many opinions on what path Illinois government should take and it’s unrealistic to expect a group to reach unanimity on such a delicate issue. Most of the discussion centered around campaign financing. Some argued that the implementation of a limit on contributions could not completely remove the taint of Illinois politics. Skeptics in the group argued that labor and others will oppose restrictions on campaign contributions, including those sitting in Springfield now.
Under consideration is House Bill 24 of the 96th General Assembly of Illinois that would set campaign contribution limits for statewide, legislative, local candidates and political action committees. Limits would apply for each primary and general election campaign.
For legislative candidates, individual contributions would be limited to $2,300 (like the federal law); legislative caucus committees would be limited to $30,000; political action committees restricted to $5,000; and businesses, unions and associations and their respective committees would be limited to $5,000. During the general election period only, the state political party committees would be permitted to contribute up to $30,000.
In any new law restricting past acts, enforcement mechanisms must also be in place. Illinois remains one of the few states in America without contribution regulations. With no history of restrictions it will be difficult to not only enact such a law, but make sure that there are no methods or loopholes to work outside of its framework. There must be enforcement and true sunshine showing through in order for it to work in curtailing corruption through politics.
A media invited conference is being planned for mid-February. Details of the next meeting are expected shortly.
Robert Kreisman is a Chicago-based attorney practicing Illinois personal injury law and Cook County medical malpractice, serving areas such as River Forest, Oak Lawn, Skokie, and Naperville.