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Follow the bouncing ball

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Days following the sentencing of Mike Madigan’s former chief of staff, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announced a series of ethics reforms that would strengthen enforcement and require more transparency and disclosure regarding the financial dealings of lobbyists.

The measures – contained in House Bill 4591 – come amid the ongoing federal corruption probe of state government that has led to the criminal indictments and convictions of several Illinois politicians and insiders. As Secretary of State, Giannoulias’ office maintains lobbyist registrations and statements of economic interest filed by public officials.

“Given the recent headlines of public corruption in Illinois, it’s incumbent upon the state to enact ethical safeguards that demand accountability among those who serve the public and operate within our government,” Giannoulias said. “Illinoisans are sick and tired of scandals and ethics abuses that unfortunately have become all too common in state government. These reforms will go a long way toward making government more transparent and holding political insiders and influencers more accountable to fight corruption more effectively.”

“The BGA long ago identified unchecked lobbying activity as a contributor to corruption in Springfield. We are pleased to see Secretary Giannoulias commit to strengthen the oversight of lobbying by requiring details on lobbyist pay and granting the Secretary of State the power to enforce registration requirements,” said David Greising, President of the Better Government Association (BGA). “More must be done to eliminate corruption in state government, and these tools would be important steps toward reform that is long overdue.”

Aside from a nominal fine, no enforcement mechanism currently exists for the Secretary of State if lobbyists fail to comply with current reporting requirements. HB 4591 would enable the Secretary of State’s office to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and the authority to suspend or revoke a lobbyist’s registration.

The bill also requires lobbyists to provide more client information by way of compensation and would give the Secretary of State’s office the authority to suspend or revoke a lobbyist’s registration for violating the act or if convicted of certain crimes.

For example: Tim Mapes, former House Speaker Madigan’s longtime chief of staff, was sentenced Monday to 2 ½ years in prison; John Hooker, a lobbyist for ComEd before he was indicted and convicted in a scheme to bribe Madigan; and Mike McClain, a top Madigan confident and lobbyist found guilty on nine counts as part ComEd scheme to help advance the utility’s legislative agenda in Springfield each are currently eligible to register as a lobbyist and maintain that registration in good standing.

However, under the proposal, the Secretary of State’s office could bar or revoke the registrations of those individuals who have been convicted of felonies in relation to the Lobbyist Registration Act or the Illinois State Government Ethics Act, or a felony that causes a loss of a state pension.

In terms of compensation, a lobbyist would have to reveal the amount of compensation and the source in bi-monthly reports under the proposal. In contrast to federal requirements and ethics laws pertaining to the City of Chicago, lobbyists at the state level currently do not have to disclose how much clients pay them.

* Tribune

Despite Giannoulias’ plans, the proposal’s legislative sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Maurice West of Rockford, last week would commit only to giving the issue a hearing before the House Ethics & Elections committee he chairs. […]

The idea could get incorporated into a larger legislative package with other efforts to strengthen government ethics laws, West said, but it will move forward only if the legislature’s Democratic leaders — Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside and Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park — and Gov. J.B. Pritzker are on board. […]

The speaker has met with West about all bills assigned to the Ethics & Elections Committee, but Welch “has not discussed specifics of this legislation,” Welch spokeswoman Jaclyn Driscoll told the Tribune in an email. […]

“Policing the lobbying industry is a key responsibility for that statewide office,” Harmon spokesman John Patterson said in a statement about the secretary of state’s office. “We look forward to the House debate and further reviewing the legislation and idea.”

The governor’s office did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

The Ethics Committee chair passes the buck of a bill he’s sponsoring to the leaders and the governor; the House Speaker hasn’t looked into it yet, the Senate President defers to the House Speaker and the governor has no comment as of yet.

My neck is sore.

* Anyway, your thoughts on the merits?

       

19 Comments
  1. - Hannibal Lecter - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 10:27 am:

    === In terms of compensation, a lobbyist would have to reveal the amount of compensation and the source in bi-monthly reports under the proposal. In contrast to federal requirements and ethics laws pertaining to the City of Chicago, lobbyists at the state level currently do not have to disclose how much clients pay them. ===

    Not sure how requiring lobbyists to disclose their income from each client is designed to root out corruption. Maybe I am missing something and would be happy to be enlightened.


  2. - Eire17 - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:09 am:

    So let me get this straight. A member of the general assembly can introduce legislation and shortly after introducing it resign from the GA and then go lobby the very bill that he/she introduced. That doesn’t change in this bill. However, the remedy for that scenario is for some other lobbyist to reveal how much his/her client is
    paying him/her? Yup. That makes sense😳


  3. - JoeMaddon - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:17 am:

    This is a bunch of so-called solutions that don’t actually address any of the corruption problems.

    Remember, people are being indicted/charged/convicted of corrupt activity because, wait for it, it is all already illegal.

    There are some actual reforms that could address some actual solutions. But this bill doesn’t include them.


  4. - Annon'in - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:25 am:

    Compensation disclosure makes little sense. None of current cases seem rooted in lobbo pay. Empowering SOS investigators to track down evil doers seems like a waste of resources. Even Tribbies seem unenthused — only quotes from less than credible BGA. Hardly a rousing cheer


  5. - Red Ranger - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:27 am:

    If we just knew the retainer amounts ComEd and AT&T paid their stable of lobbyists, none of this would have occurred. Maybe should also force the disclosure of statewide elected officials compensation form companies taken over by the federal government?


  6. - 4 eyes - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:27 am:

    As someone who is registered to lobby both the city and the state, I can say the practical effect of the city’s rules is that it takes me slightly longer to fill out my disclosures than the state and I often overreport in order to make sure there are no accidental oversights on which agencies I spoke to and about what. How that will prevent corruption is beyond me.

    The people that will benefit the most from this law would be clients who will now be able to see how much their lobbyist is charging them compared to other firms.

    Revoking registrations for violating the act seems reasonable so long as their are guarantees for due process and the ability to contest any allegations. It would be a shame if this gets abused by people with scores to settle against a lobbyist they dislike.


  7. - Spiro Agnews Ghost - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:31 am:

    I understand concerns about the Revolving Door, but what’s really at the heart of this case and preceding cases (I am thinking of U of I admissions in particular) is the dual nature and conflict of interest in government relations and contract lobbying especially.

    At the heart of the government’s case against Com Ed is Mike McClain who wore multiple hats that included paid lobbyist for ComEd, alleged political operative for Mike Madigan, and alleged Messenger Man for Madigan.

    What turned voters stomachs and the jury was McClean’s alleged role in essentially directing hiring and contracts for his client, Com Ed. This opened the door to what the feds allege was essentially pinstripe patronage. McClain would tell ComEd they needed to hire more lobbyists and then tell them who to hire, supposedly on Madigan’s behalf.

    Basically, McClain was acting like Spiro Agnew, orchestrating corruption, favors and political payoffs behind the scenes, according to the US Attorney.

    Alexi’s proposal allows journalists to begin to follow the money as it flows through lobbyists to their subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. I think companies will probably just change how payments are made.

    A more robust solution would be to remove lobbyists as the intermediary for hiring and contracting decisions altogether. If a lawmaker wants to recommend someone for a job or contract, there is no reason they can’t go through the company’s regular hiring and contracting process to write a letter of recommendation and remove the perceived conflict of interest.


  8. - Hannibal Lecter - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:33 am:

    === If we just knew the retainer amounts ComEd and AT&T paid their stable of lobbyists, none of this would have occurred. ===

    How so?


  9. - Red Ranger - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:38 am:

    Hannibal, perhaps my sarcasm didn’t come through. The proposal will do nothing other than allow for more gossiping along the rail and providing some content for John Kass fledgling website


  10. - Kyle Hillman - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:39 am:

    Imagine spending years to pass the Equal Pay Act to address historic underpaying of women, minorities, and workers in the nonprofit sector only to have the SOS undo that for a reform that wouldn’t actually address corruption in state government. This is a solution chasing a news cycle.


  11. - Monk - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 11:58 am:

    ==This is a solution chasing a news cycle.==

    Not an uncommon theme for this particular elected official.


  12. - Joe Bidenopolous - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 12:15 pm:

    To the merits: there are none. As others mentioned…

    - clients would be the biggest benefactor, not ethics
    - SOS could target lobbyists they don’t like
    - Wherefore art thou, member’s revolving door?
    - What Kyle said

    Maybe revoking/suspending registrations *based on a relevant conviction* with due process rights to challenge would be ok, but I wouldn’t trust this SOS with that authority.


  13. - Hannibal Lecter - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 12:18 pm:

    === Hannibal, perhaps my sarcasm didn’t come through. ===

    Sorry. I often miss sarcasm when it is in written form.


  14. - Amalia - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 1:00 pm:

    well somebody should enforce violations. but just like the IG in the County Court Clerk’s Office, and one candidate’s pledge to refer to an outside IG this one should be outsourced to another authority. It is more fair if a case is referred outside.


  15. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 1:04 pm:

    Want to make a dent in corruption? Hire more people to enforce the laws. We have far too many laws for the number of people charged with enforcement.


  16. - Spiro Agnews Ghost - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 1:34 pm:

    @Kyle -

    I don’t follow you.

    If anything, I imagine that disclosure will reveal that women, Black, and Latinx contract lobbyists are being paid dramatically less than their White male counterparts, and lead to changes.

    Do you think the opposite will occur, or are you worried about something else?


  17. - flea - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 2:19 pm:

    Sarcasm is another free service offered here and much appreciated.


  18. - walker - Tuesday, Feb 20, 24 @ 3:11 pm:

    Typical Alexi: All hat, no cattle.


  19. - Flexible One - Wednesday, Feb 21, 24 @ 7:44 am:

    One of the concerns is will this lead unscrupulous legislators to shake down lobbyists for campaign contributions based on how bunch money they make?


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