* Patterson talks to a legislator who explains why capping contributions in primaries and not general elections isn’t such a horrible move…
If the idea is to make lawmakers more independent (and thereby more ethical), this key member said, then the target should be the primary, not the general. Here’s why:
Legislative leaders don’t want to lose seats on their respective sides of the aisles. So they’re not going to stop helping “their” candidates in the fall elections. What they might be inclined to do is go find a new candidate and write that candidate a blank check in the primary to replace a lawmaker who’s fallen out of favor. The leader keeps the seat and gets a loyal rookie.
The “reform” theory behind the primary caps is that if lawmakers know legislative leaders can’t easily punish them by running primary challengers, they might be more willing to stand up to leaders and vote more independently.
The problem this is likely to face in many media and political circles is that it’s unlikely to do anything to control the skyrocketing costs of general election campaigns.
The GA can’t do much to control the cost of general election campaigns. Mail houses, TV and radio outlets, etc. can’t be forced to lower their prices. Also, the media has been screaming for “reform” based on a whole lot of faulty assumptions. I’ve said here more than once that the Democratic leaders ought to just go ahead and cap themselves in all elections, but they are mightily resisting that idea and don’t appear ready to budge.
But the “primary only” cap idea does make a certain sense. A general rule of thumb is that only about ten or fifteen percent of seats are hotly challenged in fall campaigns. Most who win those races are under such intense scrutiny (because the winners are usually challenged in the next election) that it’s difficult to immediately become a party hack - they often deliberately vote against their own leaders’ positions in order to build credibility back home. Meanwhile, everybody else has a pretty safe seat, at least based on partisan breakdowns. The election that most members truly fear is the primary.
* The Tribune is not impressed with that logic and runs an editorial today entitled “Don’t call this ‘reform’“…
To appease the watchdog groups who insist on capping campaign contributions, lawmakers have offered to limit party spending in primaries, where they generally spend very little money anyway.
This might qualify as compromise, but it’s not reform.
The paper does open the door to an alternative which is gaining some favor at the Statehouse…
It only underscores the folly of trying to limit campaign contributions. Every set of rules creates a different set of winners and losers and a different set of loopholes for politicians to navigate around. The public interest is best served not by capping contributions, but by enforcing strict disclosure laws to ensure the money changes hands in broad daylight.
Near-immediate online disclosure of almost all contributions might wind up in the bill and caps stripped out, but the odds appear to be against it at this moment.
* Bill Holland warns: Illinois needs better accountability: “Before I can even get to do the audits, there are hundreds of people over a multitude of agencies that have to supply the information,” Holland said. “It’s a cumbersome process, and our technology needs to be upgraded significantly.”
* University of Illinois: No-clout rules get their first test