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You can’t always get everything you want

Friday, Aug 28, 2009

* The problem with reform is that everybody has a different idea of what reform should be. And if they don’t get the reform they want, they claim that no “real” reform was achieved.

A good case in point is campaign contribution caps. From today’s Tribune editorial

We’ve never favored contribution limits, because donors and candidates easily evade them.

But the Sun-Times editorial takes the complete opposite approach…

Follow the federal model and put meaningful caps on campaign donations, not ones so high they’re meaningless.

As does the Daily Herald

Start by going back to the ideas from the reform commission. Apply the federal model that limits individuals to giving $2,400 per election, or a total of $4,800 for a primary and general election. Limit PACs and all other players too. Include real limits on the amounts that can be transferred from political committees to candidates.

And after the Sun-Times’ long laundry list of reform demands, they issue this familiar demand…

Anything less, and it won’t be much reform.

As did the Daily Herald…

Anything short of all that simply will be unacceptable.

So, according to the Sun-Times and the DH, if the Tribune’s advice on campaign caps is followed during the veto session, then reform efforts have been a total failure.


* Meanwhile, Gov. Quinn now has an excuse for why he gushed over the reform bill he just vetoed in testimony to committees in both legislative chambers…

In a follow-up interview, Quinn said he testified for the bill because he thought it was the only way to pass campaign limits.

“Probably the legislature would have gone home without doing anything,” Quinn said.

Sounds positively Blagojevichian. “Yes, I did it, but it’s their fault!”

* Related…

* Britt: Quinn takes charge of his indecisiveness

* Quinn vetoes campaign finance bill riddled with loopholes

* Gov. Quinn vetoes campaign caps bill - Says lawmakers need better version for veto session

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Joe in the Know - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:10 am:

    Rich, the Tribune is hammering Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar again today. Would you consider starting a threat on this topic? I think it would be interesting to see what others have to say about these articles (yesterday and today).

    The funniest quote from today’s article from Claar: “Claar disputes the buzz among critics that the clubhouse is his personal retreat, saying he’s there about 10 times a year.”

    I can envision the line of TV news trucks in the driveway of the club now. It will take a mere 10 days to debunk that outrageous misstatement.

  2. - Chi Gal - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:12 am:

    Britt is usually right on with his humorous depictions, but come on…. a red tie…. where is the standard Quinn purple striped tie? :-)

  3. - SangamoGOP - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:33 am:

    The newspapers should just demand zero in the way of campaign contributions. That way, they can guarantee that their voice is the only voice heard. Why the federal limits? When has $2400 or $5000 made a difference in raising gobs and gobs of money (see Obama’s ‘08 fundraising performance) OR made any difference in reducing corruption (see Abrams and Congressman Jefferson)?

    Remove the arbitrary caps and refuse such false reform. An effort should be undertaken to provide SBE with true regulatory powers to include real civil and criminal penalties.

    That, of course, won’t happen. So, we’ll continue to fiddle around the edges in an attempt to protect incumbents and heritage media outlets.

  4. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:34 am:

    Shore, if you think corruption in this state has been the sole province of Democrats, you’re either hyper-partisan, willfully ignorant or both.

    It’s fascinating to me that partisans on both sides can speak of state Democrats or GOPers as unified, monolithic powers. Factions in both parties spend more time fighting amongst themselves than campaigning against the “opposition.” We read and comment about that on this blog virtually every day.

  5. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:45 am:

    Whoops, the above should have been on the Center Ring thread. Mea culpa.

  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:51 am:

    Excellent column, Rich! Gosh, if only everyone’s columns were that great and widely-read.

  7. - Ghost - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:55 am:

    Campaign caps do not limit large organizations from running ads etc to support a canidate. All this does is make canidates more depedent on single source backers who can spend big bucks expressing their own viewpoint; while keepiong a canidate from leveling the playin field by brining in groups of smaller contributors. This makes it easier for a large operation with money to control/influence the outcome of an election, not less likely.

    I still think this idea that all change is good because it is different from what we have is a horrible model. Different is not better.

    For example, Pay to play worked because there is no prohibition on taking money from people you do business with. So remove the ability of those who do business with the State to contribute.

  8. - Brennan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 10:57 am:

    The Tribune is right. Caps are and will be evaded. You need not look any further than the explosion of 527 organizations on the national scale. These organizations are as decent as pirates on the open seas. They open and close just about every election. The staffs are recycled. The funding sources are recycled.

    Wisconsin seems to get things pretty close to what I would consider a compromise. Competing candidates commit to a mutual cap of fund raising. Beyond that, open the gates, but amend the law to order disclosure compliance within 72 hours of making the donation.

    Bobby Jindal’s campaigns for Governor and Congress in Louisiana were a great model. His campaigns disclosed contributions on his campaign website within 48 hours of receivership. This was a voluntary procedure by the campaign.

    It should be law. We have the low costs of disclosure available right now with a plethora of Internet tools like XML data, dynamic websites, and low cost hosting. If you wanted public funding for campaigns THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY COULD FLOW.

  9. - Brennan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:01 am:

    =So remove the ability of those who do business with the State to contribute.=

    Would the include or exclude employees of the state?

  10. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:05 am:

    It’s strange to see how anyone would think adopting the federal model would reduce the influence of money in politics. There’s more money being raised and spent on the federal level than ever before.

    What is interesting, though, is the growing influence of individual donors making small, multiple contributions via Internet. Those “impulse shoppers” may reduce the influence of “special interests” without any legislation at all.

  11. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:17 am:

    I like the idea of full disclosure. Pols can always get around limits as evidenced by notes to this blog. Disclosure is simple given the tools available. The light of day sure can go a long way to expose who’s getting what.

  12. - Ghost - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:18 am:


    A few office holders Like Lisa madigan already forbid their employees from contributing.

  13. - Joe from Joliet - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:21 am:

    …Sounds positively Blagojevichian…

    Why wouldn’t it? Quinn kept plenty of the Blagojevichians around. Way too many, in fact.

  14. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:22 am:

    After what happened in the Ryan administration and the Cook Cty court clerks office I say forbid employees from contributing $. Could there be ways around this? Should employees be banned from campaigning as well? I think it would be ok to attend a rally but door to door and phone bank stuff? Employees could easily (and probable are) intimidated into that.

  15. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:24 am:

    DD, I don’t like an employee ban for 1st Amendment reasons. But I’ll look very favorably on any candidate or officeholder who refuses employee contributions.

  16. - Been There - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:35 am:

    Personally I believe there should be no caps. But disclosure should be made quicker. Everyone has access to the web now so 24-48 hours for all contributions should be posted 2-3 months before elections and monthly or weekly at other times.

    But if you really want reform it should be the opposite. The contributions should be anonymous. All contributions should be paid to a central clearing house at the board of elections in the name of the candidates. The clearing house would then dole out the money to the committees in lump sums but they would not tell them where the money comes from. Sounds ridiculous but if the real reason we donate money is because we believe in the candidate and we don’t expect anything in return, well then we shouldn’t care if they know we contributed. It will never happen and the level of contributions would plummet but that is the only way to not have pay to play.

  17. - Brennan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:45 am:

    =Those “impulse shoppers” may reduce the influence of “special interests” without any legislation at all.=

    Nope. The small donors are still pawns in the game. Barack Obama lies to you when he and his surrogates say that most of his contributions came from small donors. They didn’t. Howard Dean is telling the truth about his campaign. It was MOSTLY small donors.

    It’s funny that you also mention the first amendment as it applies to state employees. You see, it is there money after all. They earned their salary - even “Illinois-Chicago” earned it. But it is also George Soros’ money. And David Koch’s money. Warren Buffet’s too.

    Voluntary compliance is OK with me. But that only goes as far as the parties agreeing are willing to abide by the pledge and not run away from their word the way Barack Obama did on the public funding commitment.

  18. - Brennan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:47 am:

    Been There: Interesting. Never heard of the clearinghouse proposal. Has this been tried anywhere? I’ll take other countries if there are examples.

  19. - PalosParkBob - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    The only REAL way to reform campaign finance is to require legislators to abstain from votes on legislation that would directly benefit those who, in the aggregate, contributed more than some fairly low amount like $5,000.

    Trial lawyers give you a hundred grand?

    Sorry. You can’t vote for tort legislation.

    Take big money from contactors, contractor’s associations, and construction unions? Forget about voting on that capital roads program.

    Are the teacher unions ponying up big time for a candidate? Say goodbye to that vote on extending early retirement benefits for educators.

    We currently have conflict of interest limitations on legislators voting on issues that would directly benefit them or their families. You can’t vote to give a contract to one of your law firm’s clients or to give a raise to your state employee husband. We could extend that to campaign contributors since the legislators can get a lot more moolah from a contributor than from that sister-in-law to whom they just gave a fat state contract.

    It’s simple, fair, honest, and doesn’t have a chance in heck of getting out of committee.

  20. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:00 pm:


    I would hope that the ban could be constructed so that an employee can support a candidate but not be able to provide a tangible service or cash to the campaign. Maybe I am naive in this or ignorant of how far free speech can go in this. Just trying to explore how to keep the Pols from taking advantage of an employee who may fear losing the job.

    I, too, would look upon a candidate more favorably if they ban contributions. Big plus for me.

  21. - Been There - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:01 pm:

    ===Has this been tried anywhere?===
    Brennan, I have no idea if it has been tried before. I just thought about it a couple of days ago while reading a similar thread on this blog.
    Like everything else with politics they/me/we will figure out some loop holes with this idea.

  22. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:03 pm:

    Brennan, I don’t know what Obama said, but I do know he raised about half his money from small donors. Off the top of my head, I’d put that at about $350 million.

    That’s serious scratch, and wasn’t even on the radar just a few years ago. That’s why I think small donors and the new technology will grow in influence.

  23. - Patrick Kelly - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:04 pm:

    If Quinn is such a reformer, why didn’t he use his amendatory veto to rewrite this bill and make it something worthwhile? Meanwhile, he gives state legislators more job security with HB723 and only makes some silly little amendment to it. Another opportunity for reform WASTED!

  24. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:09 pm:

    ===Sounds ridiculous===

    That’s because it is. What’s to stop those anonymous contributors from showing copies of their checks to candidates?

    Simple solutions are neither.

  25. - Ahem...the REAL Anonymous - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 12:46 pm:

    Sorry, Rich. Obviously, I posted my earlier comment on this thread re: your column on the wrong one. Need a nap, I guess.

  26. - Been There - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 1:41 pm:

    ==Simple solutions are neither.===
    I didn’t mean to imply that they were. As I followed up with they/me/we would find loop holes. But the point wasn’t that this is an actual solution. The point is the hypocrisy of those who tell the press or testify why they donate to a candidate. I and my employer donate. I don’t ask for nor expect quid pro quo. Well at least I don’t ask and never have conversations alluding to a connection to our donations and legislation. I would hope they vote for legislation we want based on the issue and not because we donated. But once you know they are on your side of an issue why wouldn’t someone want to keep donating so that person can stay in office? Even anonymously. But that is all pie in the sky and that is also why I said and believe the only practical “reform” is timely and detailed disclosure.

  27. - bill - Monday, Aug 31, 09 @ 10:42 pm:

    Quinn spent so many years on the outside looking in. Now, he’s in and has turned into the very people he complained about all of those years. What a hypocrite

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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