Little hope for campaign finance reform

Little hope for campaign finance reform

Posted by Joseph Ryan on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 14:49
If the public is hoping the latest confounding scandals in Illinois politics will prod major campaign finance reform, they are likely going to be disappointed. That is if Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, has anything to say about. And he does. Cullerton told the Daily Herald editorial board Monday he thinks Illinois' wide-open campaign finance system is just fine and repeated the mantra of lawmakers who have long refused contribution limits: disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. Cullerton also insisted that what former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is accused of doing -- and what ex-Gov. George Ryan was convicted of doing -- are aberrations of Illinois politics and not the norm or a process tempted by such a wide-open fundraising system. "We don't do that," Cullerton said of lawmakers and corruption. "I don't do that. No one I know in government does that." Remember, Cullerton has been around government all his life, comes from a well-connected family that has wielded clout since back in the days of old man Daley, Hizzoner himself. So he would know. Illinois' has no limits on contributions. You can write a check for $5 million to one politician as a state contractor or an ideologue group and no one says nothin'. That is far different from the federal system and those in countless other states, where contributions are strictly limited to limit the amount of influence one person or group can buy. Cullerton touted the latest campaign finance reform to hit the books. It bans contributions to statewide candidates from those receiving state contracts. It has been praised as a good first step, despite it's loopholes (lawmakers and state party's are exempt). Cullerton appears to sees it as a last step, for the most part. Cullerton told the editorial board that the arrests of politicians left and right shows the system works as it is now. (As long as the U.S. Attorney's office as the needed resources to watch all of Illinois' politicians.) But Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan are holding back their moves on ethics -- at least some ethics measure will have to move forward in this environment -- until their reform commission comes back later this spring with some solid recommendations. Cullerton seemed game for further requirements on disclosure, perhaps making reports due out from committee's more often, etc. "We will make it timelier," he said. Yet, unlike many reform groups, he appears to believe the level of enforcement of the existing laws is appropriate right now. He said he hears "complaints" all the time from his colleagues in the Senate about the iron fist of the Illinois State Board of Elections coming down upon them for minor infractions.
Comments ()
We are now using Facebook comments to offer a more inclusive, social and constructive discussion. Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our or terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.