* As you already know, the Senate passed a broad ethics bill yesterday that was identical to the governor’s amendatory veto language in another ethics bill.
There’s been little actual analysis of this particular bill, other than the sharp criticisms about it being a product of Gov. Blagojevich’s mind so, therefore, it can’t be much good.
There are actually some decent ideas in this proposal. But some of it is just goofy.
We are supposed to have a citizens assembly in Illinois, not a full-time professional legislature. This bill begins the process of trying to define who can and cannot be a member of the General Assembly. That’s a foolhardy step. Here’s the language…
No member of the General Assembly, during the term for which he has been elected or appointed, may be employed by the State, a municipality, or unit of local government. This prohibition does not extend to employment as an elected official, firefighter, police officer, school counselor, teacher, or university instructor.
As one Senator pointed out earlier this week, the bill’s fine print allows a legislator to teach at a university, but not at a community college. Another noted that a legislator couldn’t be a part-time high school coach. Still others have complained that a doctor or nurse at Cook County Hospital would have to give up their jobs.
This is what happens when you start drawing lines. Where do you stop? Should farmers be excluded because they receive massive government subsidies and special tax breaks? What about business owners located in TIF districts? What about state government contractors, most of whom are now banned from contributing to the governor’s campaign fund?
Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform made this point to Eric Zorn yesterday…
Getting rid of double-dippers sounds great, but there are so many exceptions in the bill that it’s sure to be challenge as a violation of the equal protection clause.
I fully agree with that.
* I have no problem at all with extending that contractor campaign contribution ban to state parties. As Senate President Emil Jones rightly notes, it will be just too easy to get around the gubernatorial ban - which also applies to declared candidates - by washing the cash through a state party. Since Attorney General Lisa Madigan is gearing up to run for governor, that seems like a reasonable worry. Same goes for the Republican Party.
Cindi Canary strongly disagrees…
(I)t makes no sense to ban political parties and individual legislators from taking contributions from people with state contracts because parties and legislators don’t enter into those contracts. If [Blagojevich] wants to limit parties and lawmakers, he should try to do it with contribution and transfer limits. This approach is a waste of time.
Contribution and transfer limits may or may not be a good idea. The transfer limits might quell the legislative leaders’ stranglehold on campaign money. But the contribution limits have done little to no good in DC politics. I just don’t think this contractor thing is a “waste of time.” Good for the goose, good for the gander.
*** UPDATE *** Here’s a clarification from Canary…
Unlike HB 824, SB 780 would prohibit campaign donations to political
committees that have no connection to the officer who lets the contract. Because that kind of ban treads heavily on contractors’ constitutional rights to free speech and association, the courts likely would rule it to be unconstitutional – but only after a lengthy and expensive court battle.
Example - Under the governor’s proposal, the owner of a company contracting to supply the Office of Treasurer more than $50,000 in computers, copiers, legal services or anything else would be prohibited from making a contribution to any political party, every state legislator, every candidate for the General Assembly, every statewide constitutional officer and every candidate for those offices.
It’s very likely a court would rule that an infringement on free speech.
Because campaign contributions are a protected activity under the 1st Amendment, legislation to regulate contributions must be narrowly tailored to address a compelling government interest. That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. A wide-ranging BAN like that would not meet the test of a narrowly tailored restriction on campaign contributions. However, a LIMITATION ON THE AMOUNT of a contribution by individuals - whether an executive with a firm contracting with the
state or not — to ALL political committees would pass any constitutional test.
To sum it up — Because it quite likely would be ruled unconstitutional, it isn’t worth the effort to try to expand the ban on state contractor (the corporation, executives, owners, etc.) campaign contributions. It would be better to spend time on something we know to be constitutional — banning contributions by ALL orporations (whether doing business with the state or not) and by all unions and associations. At the same time, Illinois should limit the amount that any individual person can contribute in an election cycle and limit how much a political committee can transfer to other committees.
[END OF UPDATE 1]
* I agree in part with Canary here…
Some pieces of this bill are fine. The affirmative pay raise provision [requiring lawmakers to vote for legislative pay raises instead of allowing them to get the raise by not voting against them] is a fine idea. But it should be stripped out and run as a separate bill, not embedded in all this other crap.
Why not put it into a broader package of reforms?
* Nobody, no group, has the singular right to own a particular issue, so I disagree with some of this…
I resent the idea that suddenly Blagojevich thinks he gets to set the agenda on what real ethics reform is with this slap-shot proposal. We’ve been working the pay-to-play ban for three years, and how he want to ram this through in 24 hours.
He’s the guv. He can do what he wants. And he does. lol
* And, while a bit harsh, this is spot on…
The senate voted to approve it today, but all the conversation I heard on the floor was how the bill wasn’t really ready, it sure needed more work. It looks to me as thought [the members of the senate] decided to vote for the bill to give themselves the ability to tell their constituents that they voted for ethics reform. It looks like a very cynical vote to me.
Cynical? Yep. Effective politics? Maybe so.
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* PJ Star View: Illinois ethics law overdue, but welcome