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Question of the day

Monday, May 30, 2011

* The Tribune has a story today about the big money raised by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton this month

All told, more than $600,000 in amounts of $1,000 or more has flowed into political funds controlled by Madigan and Cullerton this month. That campaign cash is changing hands during a month when lawmakers traditionally face the most controversial legislation — an agenda dictated by the two Democratic leaders. […]

“Our only criteria in the Democratic caucus in the House is whether legislation represents a common-sense solution to a problem or making sure a program operates in a common-sense fashion,” [Madigan spokesman Steve Brown] said. He said it is “critical” to raise money “every month of the year” to defend incumbents because of the recent effect of groups that accept unregulated and anonymous sources of money “to put slop on the heads of candidates.”

By contrast, Republicans who have spent the past decade out of power in the House and Senate saw their leadership funds raise only $38,500 in donations of $1,000 or more in May, state records show. […]

“Six hundred thousand dollars at the close of session when all the very controversial legislation is attempting to move forward?” asked Sen. John Millner, R-Carol Stream. “It doesn’t look good and it might create more cynicism on the part of our constituents. I think we really have to seriously re-evaluate how we’re doing business.”

Democratic Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, the sponsor of the current campaign finance law, said he’s concerned that Illinois is increasingly seeing “unregulated political interest groups, who don’t disclose where they get their money, launching campaigns to influence public policy.” Harmon, a member of a bipartisan commission looking at the law, said he remains open to suggestions and recommendations.

Fundraising is banned on most session days, however Monday events before session begins on Tuesday is a regular occurrence around these parts.

* The Question: Should all legislative fundraising be banned during session months? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Man in the Middle - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 7:55 am:

    What’s needed, IMO, is not restrictions on campaign contributions, but rather openness about them.

    Any campaign finance law that actually passes turns out to include loopholes to render it meaningless to at least the majority party, just as tax proposals to “soak the rich” somehow always include loopholes to prevent the rich being soaked.

    Better, IMO, is to let anyone donate as much as desired, so long as the gift is undisguised. That way, in the next election, the recipient of donations has them for use in the campaign, while opponents are free to point out exactly who is behind each candidacy.

    “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

  2. - wordslinger - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 7:56 am:

    No. Years ago I would have said yes, but now, what’s the point when donors can hide their identities through these groups? The whole country is open for business.

  3. - No need for O'clarification - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:25 am:

    Man in the Middle and Felix Frankfurter cover this ground well. Wide open and visible is the best we can do.

  4. - The Battleship Potemkin - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    “Wide open and visible is the best we can do.”

    And the sooner the better, I say! Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  5. - Damfunny - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:33 am:

    We need term limits for all elected office - local, state, federal.

    We’re supposed to have a ‘citizen legislature’, not lifetime fiefdoms (Madigan, et al).

  6. - Dirt Digger - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:49 am:

    States that have implemented such a ban are not any less corrupt/unseemly than states that have not. Moreover, weakening the fundraising power at the candidate level will only accelerate the rise of third party spending. This in turn will degrade policy decisions: a candidate must weigh legislative decisions as part of a larger picture (even if that picture is re-election), while an interest group is indifferent to the larger consequences of its policy goals.

  7. - dave - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:59 am:


    And can someone ask Sen. Millner why it is okay for his party to take contributions, but not the other party? The total amount of contributions doesn’t matter so much.

    How much have the Docs contributed to House Repubs this session, by the way?

  8. - dave - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:04 am:

    How much have the Docs contributed to House Repubs this session, by the way?

    Actually… I just looked it up. Most of their money has actually gone to Dems, and mostly Madigan.

  9. - JustaJoe - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:16 am:

    I voted Yes, but wherever there is a loophole, these pols will find it, so such a ban puts the burden on those who would be its watchdogs. Frustrating.

  10. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:25 am:

    Dave, that must really peeve Cross. He does their bidding and they donate to Madigan. Checkmate

  11. - DuPage Dave - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:26 am:

    It’s funny to me how the term limits idea just won’t die. It was implemented in California to no apparent effect. That state’s budget problems exceed those of Illinois.

    There is nothing wrong with professionals. As long as voters in his district elect Madigan, he can serve. So long as his caucus elects him he can serve as Speaker.

    This is called democracy.

    The bigger problem is the rules of the House that allow the Speaker to keep bills from coming to the floor. There is also the issue of how campaign finance works in Illinois, giving Madigan and others a key role outside of their elected role.

    I voted no on the poll. The horse is out of the barn on limiting donations. The US Supreme Court says let it all hang out.

  12. - Independent Thinker - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:43 am:

    I don’t think the timing of the contributions really matters all that much. Plus with the recent Supreme Court rulings I think even the small reforms we put in place after Blago will be challenged.
    In the meantime things like Senate Bill 51 which is suppose to curb corruption really just adds another layer of administration to an already crazy and expensive procurement process.
    Nothing stops the obvious corruption of putting statues in place for certain industries.
    I am severely disappointed in the Workman’s Comp vote. This is an area that small businesses have been asking for reform for many years.
    What is a shame is that these businesses really have no voice in Springfield.

  13. - steve schnorf - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:52 am:

    I have long know that I was a reformer, and I believe my ideas will work as well as those of the pseudo-reformers you all have been listening to.

    All contributions to politicians and their campaign committees should be banned on Tuesdays.

    On days that Patrick Collins is in the media being quoted on how to reform politics/government/Speaker Madigan, etc, contributions should be limited to envelopes of cash, any envelope containing more than $149 banned.

    On days that the Chicago Tribune editorializes on fiscal controls and business-like procedures for government, all elected officials should get $1000 from the Trib’s bankruptcy account.

    On days that “public interest groups” whose governing board has average incomes 10 times or more the average income of Illinois citizens explains how working people should lower their retirement expectations, both in terms of income and health care, 5% of all R elected officials should be replaced with Ds.

    When a D sponsors legislation to require already retired state employees with 20 years of service or more to pay 49.5% of their health care premiums in addition to the amount they are already paying for Medicare, all Rs with prisons, mh/dd facilities and/or schools for the blind of death should get $10,000 from AFSCME and $4950 from SEIU.

    Political contributions on even numbered days of the month should be odd numbers of dollars, and contributions on odd numbered days should be in even numbers of dollars.

    Now there’s thoughtful reform for you! I’m quite sure it will at least make things as much better as all the other reforms we’ve enacted have.

  14. - steve schnorf - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:53 am:

    I have also long know that I have trouble with spelling and grammar.

  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:57 am:

    What a ludicrous debate.

    “Fundraising” is not banned on session days.

    Holding fundraising events is banned.

    There is nothing to prohibit every member of the IMA from going to websites today and contributing online to Democrats.

    Except the fact that Mike Madigan doesn’t accept online contributions, but that’s another story.

  16. - Cal Skinner - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    Steve is so funny. And probably correct.

    I’m one in favor of full and quick disclosure. $1,000 it too high a threshold.

    Take a look at what your local legislators have received during this reporting period, as I did at McHenry County Blog for mine. You might find some interesting connections.

  17. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:03 am:

    So the lake funder has gone on for 30 years and the Tribbies decide it is page one news in 2011.
    Unions, docs, hospitals gave and none liked the work comp bill.
    Brown hit it on the head. Until someone designs a defense against the unregulated donors launching smear attacks, the pols would be nuts to agree to more limits.
    BTW can we note that self declared Campaign Finance Expert Redfield seems to have never made a campaign donation. Perhaps he has “virtual” campaign donation experience?

  18. - ugh - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:06 am:

    It’s called the First Amendment, people. Read it.

  19. - steve schnorf - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:11 am:

    I misspoke earlier. As to Tuesdays, obviously banning contributions on Tuesdays would have no reform effect at all. All who understand knew that I meant Thursdays.

  20. - wordslinger - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Schnorf has it figured out as well as anyone.

    What is amazing is the amount of money from all sources.

    In Gus Russo’s book “The Outfit” and other sources, you can read about how in 1973 Tony Accardo, Allen Dorfman and Frank Fitzsimmons (then Teamsters president) agreed to slip $1 million in cash to Charles Colson for hush money for the Watergate burglars.

    With just $1 million, they got the president of the United States to release Hoffa (they were worried he was going to start talking in prison) and bar him from the Teamsters (they liked Fitzsimmons in the big job better).

    One million doesn’t go as far as it used to.

  21. - Nagidam - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    So with the new “Campaign Finance Law” legislators no longer have to report these donations within a specific time frame after they receive them. They have to follow the A1 rules only after they DEPOSIT the checks in the bank. Why would you get a big fat check and then report it during session?

  22. - JBilla - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:46 am:

    While I voted to restrict, I don’t know how. But I gotta say the practice of political campaign contributions as it currently exists is utterly destroying the republic. False and misleading TV advertising claims with biased talking head commentators and no disclosure of conflicts of interest is making politics a comedy. When only a handful of people in the entire state can talk about a bill in an informed way, we need to examine how information is being disseminated. As is, this is a talking point that is completely reversed in most other states (Republicans want campaign finance reform!, hahah). It’s silly the way we go on accepting that corporate money is free speech, to the detriment of the SEC and FCC regulation powers. We should just codify it with an amendment and accept that the PATRIOT Act and Citizens United are soulmates. Absolute corporate and political power go hand in hand. Usually I don’t pay too much attention to what happens at the Federal level, but this petty nonsense between Illinois and Wisconsin is a smoke screen. Grow up, wake up, and start demanding accountability. No man is bigger than the institution, including long serving state legislators. Rich, if you get some time on the subject, finding out the political money line on the contributions from this last week would be illuminating. Thank you.

  23. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 11:22 am:

    The $1K payments from the Tribbies bankruptcy account seems like a meaningful reform
    How about adopting a policy that sez govt should follow the lead of the corporate reformers?
    So when the corportate reformers demand pension reform we can follow the model of United Airlines and dump the pension problems on the federal bailout board and federal taxpayers!

  24. - x ace - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 3:52 pm:

    Absolutely should be banned, Creates a Terrible Appearance of Impropriety.

  25. - Excessively Rabid - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:46 pm:

    How about the opposite of what we have now? Individuals can donate as much as they want to whomever they want when they want. And groups cannot donate at all. Every donation with an individual name, address, and SSN on it.

  26. - Precinct Captain - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 10:50 pm:

    “Should all legislative fundraising be banned during session months?”

    Would this include veto sessions that can occur at critical times in an election cycle? That would be absurd unless there is complete public financing of campaigns. After all, these are public offices aren’t they?

  27. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 31, 11 @ 4:39 am:

    Veto sessions are almost always held after election day.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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