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Did Change Illinois really just, um, change Illinois?

Friday, Oct 30, 2009

* Bethany Jaeger at Illinois Issues breaks down the new campaign finance reform bill

* Require candidates to report contributions and expenditures four times a year, as opposed to the current twice a year. Donations of $1,000 or more would have to be reported within two business days throughout the entire year.
* Allow the Illinois State Board of Elections to conduct random audits, to investigate alleged violations of contribution limits or reporting requirements and to waive fees if the mistakes were found to be inadvertent.
* Form a task force to study the effectiveness of the implementation of the new law, as well as the public funding of political campaigns.

Per election cycle limits
Individuals can give up to:

* $5,000 to any candidate
* $10,000 to any political party or legislative caucus committee
* $10,000 to any political action committee

Businesses, unions and associations can give up to:

* $10,000 to any candidate
* $20,000 to any political party or legislative caucus committee
* $20,000 to any political action committee

Candidates can give up to:

* $50,000 to any candidate
* $50,000 to any political action committee
* Unlimited contributions to any political party or legislative caucus committee, except a $50,000 limit to a committee participating in primary elections

Political party and legislative caucus committees during primary elections:
The aggregate amount between state, county, township and city political committees cannot exceed:

* $200,000 to statewide candidates
* $125,000 to any state Senate candidate
* $75,000 to any state House candidate
* Between $50,000 - $125,000 to candidates for local and judicial offices
* $20,000 to political action committees
* Unlimited contributions to candidates during general elections

The legislation itself can be accessed by clicking here.

* The Tribune editorial board rails against the compromise

Putting its best face forward, the coalition of government watchdogs that signed off on Phony Campaign Finance Fix 2.0 said the deal struck Thursday with Democratic legislators “puts Illinois on the road to reform.” […]

The watchdogs can lay claim to the state’s first-ever caps on campaign contributions, but they swallowed a bitter compromise: The bill would limit how much individuals, corporations, unions and political action committees can contribute to a campaign. But contributions from party leaders would be capped only in primary elections.

That imbalance does more harm than good. It doesn’t curb the influence of money; it gives even greater influence to party leaders, who already tell your elected officials how to drive.

As does the Sun-Times...

The governor, House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton need to carry the ball a little farther.

Or call it quits and go home.

And face the wrath of the voters.

* John Patterson of the Daily Herald has the justification from Cindi Canary, whose group is part of the Change Illinois coalition…

“At the end of the day I don’t think it was ever about getting a perfect bill,” Canary told reporters at the Capitol.

Reformers feared if they continued a hard-line approach nothing would happen and they’d get blamed for killing off the numerous agreed-upon reforms.

“There was a sense that they wanted to gain the improvements - and make sure they left the building with something,” Canary said of why members of the Change Illinois! group compromised.

He also has strong reaction from GOP state Rep. Suzie Bassi…

“Change Illinois! was either worn down or bought out,” she said on the House floor

* More back and forth

“This will create omnipotent leaders, caucus leaders and party bosses in the state of Illinois,” said Rep. Michael Tryon, R-Crystal Lake. “I think that’s what Illinoisans are trying to get away from.”

The legislation also creates stricter reporting requirements for campaign contributions and expenditures. Disclosure reports would have to be filed four times a year, and contributions of $1,000 or more would have to be quickly reported to the State Board of Elections.

Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert and retired University of Illinois Springfield professor, said the new disclosure rules might be the toughest in the country.

More

House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego contended the campaign finance proposal fell short of scaling back the power of legislative leaders and political parties because the bill also should impose limits in the general election.

“This is the only way to enact change, this is the only way to reduce the power, this is the only way to reduce the control,” Cross said, saying the “status quo remains the same.”

Madigan defended the decision to exempt legislative and party leaders from donation limits in general elections. Along with Supreme Court rulings that make it difficult to limit funding, Madigan said, the general election is an all-out battle between political parties.

“My view is a political party exists to support its candidates in the general election,” Madigan said.

* And in case you missed these last night, here are some videos. First up, Speaker Madigan


* Cindi Canary


- Posted by Rich Miller        


41 Comments
  1. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 9:41 am:

    Its like asking a bank robber to consult on a security system. There will be hole for them to exploit everywhere.

    The result is disappointing, but not unexpected.


  2. - Montrose - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 9:46 am:

    Of course it is not a perfect bill. When was the last time a perfect bill came out of Springfield? 99.44% of legislative change is incremental. Bills with much lower stakes are watered down all the time. Why would this issue be any different?

    I think the editorial boards are being overly critical of Change Illinois. They saw a deal that got them further down the road and took it. Everyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in Springfield has had to do the same thing with their issue.

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath and think of this as a step in the process, not the end.


  3. - this old hack - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 9:55 am:

    I would like to know, from the Sun-Times and the Tribune Mr. Collins exactly how their proposals, if enacted exactly as recommended, would have stopped Gov. Ryan and Gov. Blagojevich’s corruption? Or even Cindy, seeing as she has become the anointed “expert” on all of this.

    Lets recap Kent Redfield’s comments, the authentic expert on state campaign finance, from the story:

    “Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert and retired University of Illinois Springfield professor, said the new disclosure rules might be the toughest in the country.”

    I rest my case.


  4. - Dirt Digger - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:01 am:

    It’s a fine bill. The caps are reasonable and the consolidation of candidate/ward committees as well as quarterly reports/48 hour late disclosure are very good.


  5. - Anonymous45 - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:05 am:

    It’s a decent start…reform will come incrementally…


  6. - Bon Voyage, Bethany! - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:07 am:

    I’m off-topic, but I’ll miss Bethany’s reporting when she moves on. She has a knack for breaking big bills down into bite-sized pieces. Thanks to her for being clear, concise, and insightful.


  7. - MKK - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:09 am:

    Can anyone seriously think that if Change Illinois had walked away this bill would have failed? They did not have to capitulate and could have held their head high with what they liked in the bill. Instead they sold out the voters without lots of bucks and made sure that those with bucks will now pay the leaders to get the votes they want.
    In the end, the leadership won, lock, stock and barrell and the reform groups lost the battle, the war and their reputation.


  8. - D.P. Gumby - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:10 am:

    What has the Trib or the Sun-Times done recently to contribute to success of political reform??? The art of the possible, this was possible and is much more than existed before. All things being equal, I’d much rather see it and where it’s coming from than hold my breath until it’s capped.


  9. - wordslinger - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:10 am:

    It’s sure a lot further down the road than I expected.

    I suppose in an effort to remove money from politics, Tribune Co. will be offering free ads to candidates in the Chicago Tribune, on WGN TV and radio, CLTV and their associated websites? Or at least turning down that dirty filthy money and refusing the ads?


  10. - Louis Howe - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:14 am:

    Does anyone remember what was the purpose of campaign finance reform? Perhaps we could say this was the first step in a thousand mile journey, but not much else.


  11. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:15 am:

    I agree about Bethany. Her departure is a huge loss for the Statehouse. She is an amazingly hard worker, a top notch reporter, is firmly committed to online and multi-media and has helped drag Illinois Issues into the 21st Century.

    What a loss this is.


  12. - ChiTownguy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:16 am:

    More than I expected and its a good start.

    I agree with Montrose. Its a good start. We must remember that legislation is about compromise and change is incremental.

    @ This Old Hack: No law will prevent a Ryan or Blagojevich from being corrupt. If they were not corrupt people, they would not have violated laws in place at the time. Would they have stopped because the laws were different? No.

    IMHO, the 48 hour reporting of any contribution of more than $1,000 is a little excessive. Even federal campaigns only have to do that within a few days of an election.


  13. - Wondering - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:18 am:

    Old Hack…

    “Kent Redfield, a campaign finance expert and retired University of Illinois Springfield professor, said the new disclosure rules might be the toughest in the country.”

    They will only be the toughest in the country if they are enforced and there are some teeth behind the enforcement.
    The rules in place today (some, at any rate) might be considered tough by some but when violations occur and fines are assessed they easily can be pleaded down or, even worse, ignored and the Board of Elections is toothless in enforcement. And worse, the violator(s) can skate by election dates without a worry while in violation of the rules.
    Whatever is put in place will never be perfect but to make the disclosure rules work there has to be concern on the part of candidates and their committees that a violation will bring about some serious repercussions.


  14. - Cindy Lou - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:21 am:

    Pfft, guess maybe I’ve grown too cynical with the state on bills and contracts, but seen way too many semis able to barrel through with loose interpretive pot holes. There’s usually a reason two sides spend hours/days negoitating over a word or two or three, a paragraph in or out…

    We have reform, guess we’ll find any pitfalls in and how much reform we actually got as time goes by.


  15. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:21 am:

    ===there has to be concern on the part of candidates and their committees that a violation will bring about some serious repercussions. ===

    Agreed. Regardless of any fines, getting tagged with a violation will undoubtedly become a campaign issue - as it should. That pressure will help keep people honest.

    OK, maybe “honest” isn’t the right word. Whatever. You get the idea.


  16. - this old hack - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:28 am:

    Wordsligner said it so well:

    ==I suppose in an effort to remove money from politics, Tribune Co. will be offering free ads to candidates in the Chicago Tribune, on WGN TV and radio, CLTV and their associated websites? Or at least turning down that dirty filthy money and refusing the ads?==

    100% correct, my friend. That alone would do more to reform anything than these caps. It is also why the Tribune and Sun-Times have not a leg to stand on when it comes to their endless pontificating on campaign finance.

    Let them put their money where their mouth is.


  17. - Will County Woman - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:30 am:

    it seems that when the impetus behind any reform is really just politics the outcome(s) will always be less than stellar and less than what was truly intended.

    maybe instead of pushing so hard and fast for reform in Illinois this year, the push for reform should have been a more methodical and strategic effort? I agree with reformers that this effort is a start. I just wish refomer types wouldn’t always set the bar so high, and would just set more realistic expectations in the first place instead.

    just like with healthcare reform at the national level the driver is politics.

    people are running for election and people want build political capital/legacy. something is better than nothing. whatever.


  18. - Captain Flume - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:43 am:

    Remember a couple days ago Rich commented that Tom Cross had drawn a line in the sand vis a vis standing by Change Illinois’ support of reform? I commented that lines in the sand have a habit of disappearing in with the tide and the wind. Looks like high tide and a gale just did some erasing.


  19. - ChiTownguy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:44 am:

    I’m not certain we can say that a $5k limit per person to a candidate is the strictest in the country.

    MANY other states have far greater limits and reporting requirements.

    I always find this chart very helpful:
    http://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/documents/legismgt/limits_candidates.pdf

    By my count, at least 32 states have lower limits on contributions.

    Again, its a step in the right direction, but the Professor’s quote seems a bit over the top.


  20. - Too funny - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:45 am:

    Tom Cross and Mike Tryon are even against giving their own Republican voters a vote in their own state party (SB600).

    Who really gives a darn about contribution limits when you don’t even have a voice in your own party?

    The Springfield GOP “leaders” are a joke.


  21. - anon - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:45 am:

    I have always questioned Change Illinois and anyone claiming to be a reformer as just a headline opportunist.


  22. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:50 am:

    ===the Professor’s quote seems a bit over the top. ===

    The professor was talking about disclosure, not caps.


  23. - CircularFiringSquad - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 10:59 am:

    It was curious, but not surprising, to see folks like Tryon, Black announcing ways to evade the system.
    The CHANGE IL folks should be commended for a willingness to compromise. Unlike some advocates who lack much real world experience in an area( no contibutors, campaign work, etc) they were willing to listen and learn.
    They know that despite all the bluster none of the current legislative leaders have been accused of a campaign finance wrong doing.
    When the finance bill is considered along with new powers for IGs, stronger ethics commissions and end to pay to play, etc; it is safe to say IL has taken big steps forward
    Most know that it is hard to stop true crooks —selling CDLs and Senate seats have been and continue to be illegal.
    You can take away the hiding places.
    In the meantime one must wonder why some push so hard to weaken the caucuses. Do they really want to give special interests more control? Or are they just that dumb?
    Let’s see one new organization thought it made sense to have the ComEd prexy on their board.
    I guess that says a lot.


  24. - MKK - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:00 am:

    These people really only serve their boards and their funders and they needed to say they got limits. Oh and the media attention doesn’t hurt.


  25. - Montrose - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:12 am:

    ++These people really only serve their boards and their funders and they needed to say they got limits.++

    I know I sound like a member of Change Illinois, but I am not. I have a hard time with the level of cynicism in a statement like this. I can be as cynical as the next guy, but to basically say they don’t care about change, they just care about what they can put in a grant proposal really ignores the commitment it takes for folks working on this issue and issues like it to see them through.

    This is generally thankless work. If folks were just doing it for a grant, they would not be in this line of work.


  26. - Laborguy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:17 am:

    All the talk here, and in the newspapers, is about limiting the power of leadership. I hate to break the news to everyone but you can’t write a law that effectively limits the power of four people. Everyone has been focused on the wrong thing. You limit Madigan’s power by forcing candidates and parties to bring more citizens into the system as donors. Drastically lowering contribution limits to say $500 forces everyone to diversify their donor bases. This, and this alone, will eventually begin to limit the power of the four tops. The Trbune is being quite dishonest here because they do not support individual limits. The Tribune is only interested in limiting Madigan’s power vis a vi the Republicans. That was never going to work. Real reform means real limits on contributions. While this may very well be a step in the right direction I am not sure if and when their will be another opportunity to take a step. Certainly, not after everyone has been re-elected.


  27. - ChiTownguy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:19 am:

    Rich, thanks for the clarification on the Prof’s quote.

    After skimming the bill, the penalties look appropriate at first blush. However, the self-funding clause caught my eye. Candidates who contribute more $100k to their own campaign ($250k for state wide) trigger the removal of any fundraising caps for their opposition.

    Similar federal legislation was struck down by the high court recently. How and why is this any different?


  28. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:20 am:

    Laborguy, you made lots of excellent points there. My only tiny quibble would be to say the threshold might be need to be even lower than $500 and that public funding is another option.


  29. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:21 am:

    ===Similar federal legislation was struck down by the high court recently. How and why is this any different? ===

    It was struck down because the non-self-funding opponents were allowed higher contribution caps while the self-funders’ caps stayed the same.


  30. - irving & ashland - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:28 am:

    They don’t get politics. They almost had what they truly needed — which is to go into an election against the intransigence of the legislature.

    They need to beat someone for being against reform before anything useful will ever happen. They let that chance slip through their fingers.


  31. - just sayin' - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 11:50 am:

    This is really good. Gotta check this out:

    http://www.despair.com/corruption.html

    I think this reflects the desperation of Tom Cross and his irrelevant GOP caucus. Mike Madigan Envy has really gotten the best of them.


  32. - Dem Observer - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 12:02 pm:

    The real issues isn’t the money; its a system that allows a guy who can only get elected in a tiny little section of Southwest Chicago to end up controlling state government.


  33. - this old hack - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 12:40 pm:

    @Dem Observer–or some bakery salesman from some place called Wood Dale who was the first to impose tight controls on legislation and amendments via the Rules Committee in his chamber. Don’t forget about him!


  34. - Analysis please - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 12:54 pm:

    Labor Guy is right on –the more individuals with a stake in he game the closer the game gets watched.


  35. - ABCBoy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 1:17 pm:

    Massive loopholes in this bill. Unless I missed some other provision, people could game this system very, very easily. For example:

    Individual donations to candidates is capped at $5,000. But Individual donations to PACs generally is capped at $10,000. And PAC donations to individual candidates is capped at $50,000.

    Now, the law says that individuals can’t just set up multiple PACs on their own. But what if, say, five rich guys got together and decided to support a candidate?

    At first glance, they’d be capped at $5K each, with a total of a $25,000 donation to Candidate X.

    But Rich Guys A, B, C, D, and E could each set up their own PAC. Then, since they’re all friends and want to support Candidate X, they could all agree to cut themselves the maximum allowable $10,000 check to each of their PACs.

    Rich Guy PAC A now has $50K.
    Rich Guy PAC B now has $50K.
    Rich Guy PAC C now has $50K.
    Rich Guy PAC D now has $50K.
    Rich Guy PAC E now has $50K.

    Since they all love Candidate X, they all channel their PACs to Candidate X’s campaign: $250,000.

    Not to mention the individual $5,000 checks that they can still cash, plus any corporations they happen to own too.

    So, minus a few grand in legal expenses to do all of the paperwork, five guys just did a huge run-around and were able to give Candidate X almost $300,000 whereas if they follow the intent of the law they’d be capped at $25,000.

    Unless I’m missing something here, it’s loophole city.


  36. - Rich Miller - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 1:19 pm:

    ABCBoy, is that provision any different from federal law?


  37. - ABCBoy - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 1:29 pm:

    No idea. But if it’s the same, it simply points out the absurdity of federal law too.

    I suppose it’s possible that there’s a provision somewhere that includes forensic accounting to trace the aggregate dollars that a donor may give in total. In my example above, it’s very easy to do since the PACs all just had $50K and they all went to the same candidate. A very crude example. But if more donations from 3rd parties when to the PACs of the 5 rich guys, and since money is fungible, it’s almost impossible to see if an individual exceeded their limit by using these PACs as pass-through vehicles. The more dollars and donors going to a PAC, the easier it would be to muddy the waters and claim that the money “north of $5,000″ that went to Rich Guy PAC 1, for example, actually went to Candidate Y and not Candidate X.

    Barring a copy of an email or a letter or a check stub from an individual that said, “$10,000 To Rich Guy PAC 2, for the express purposes of giving to Candidate X” it’d be awfully hard to prove. And most of these guys playing political shell games wouldn’t be that stupid to make it that obvious.


  38. - MKK - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 1:34 pm:

    Look at the enforcement provisions the reformers blessed and praised. The SBE must define “good faith” and can only fine offenders for “wilful” violations and then only $5000 max. Whoops or we were really busy and tried our best means no case may be brought. No one should expect much in way of enforcement here.


  39. - wordslinger - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 2:47 pm:

    As everyone parses the bills that passed, can I bring up again: Was it the parties and legislative leaders that were shaking everyone down?

    The corruption comes from the awarding of contracts and release of money. We saw that with Blago, right?


  40. - LincolnLounger - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 4:47 pm:

    Though I don’t always agree with her, I’ve always respected Cindi Canary — until now. Shame. Better nothing than this joke of “reform”.


  41. - fgs - Friday, Oct 30, 09 @ 9:10 pm:

    Canary’s support is indefensible. She can’t be taken seriously after this.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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