SPRINGFIELD -- A group of lawmakers said Wednesday they’ve struck a deal on sweeping ethics legislation that will prohibit companies from donating to the politicians able to award them state contracts.
“There’s a good chance it might be snowing in hell right now,” said state Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat involved with negotiations.
The proposal is an attempt to wipe away the lingering perception that Illinois and its politicians are for sale, a stigma repeatedly reinforced by scandal and investigations. Former Gov. George Ryan is currently residing in a federal prison after being convicted of using his state offices to enrich friends and family.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s former political fundraiser is now on trial for his role in a kickback scheme alleged to have involved campaign contributions to the governor being exchanged for lucrative state investment contracts.
The governor has denied any wrongdoing.
But lawmakers said the current system needs to be dramatically changed to regain the public’s trust.
The proposal, which has yet to be voted on, bans political contributions from businesses that have state contracts of $50,000 or more to the state officeholder that awarded the contract. The prohibition also applies to candidates seeking that office.
In addition, businesses with such contracts must register with the State Board of Elections, which will create a database allowing the public to see who’s getting state business and what if any political contributions they’ve made.
Violations would result in contracts being voided. Three violations within three years would bar the company from bidding on state business.
“The reform community is encouraged by this agreement to combat the pay-to-play practices that have plagued Illinois for too many years,” said Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Supporters from the Illinois House and Senate said the proposal could be approved by both chambers within a few weeks. If the governor alters the plan in any way or outright vetoes it, they said they’ll have the votes to override him.
“Let him try,” said state Sen. Debbie Halvorson, a Crete Democrat.
If enacted, the ethics law would take effect Jan. 1.