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Friday, May 22, 2009

Does Illinois need caps on campaign contributions?

Until the revelations of Rod Blagojevich allegedly selling jobs and contracts for campaign contributions, I never really cared about this topic. And even then, I wasn't really on board with the concept of limiting how much people or businesses or unions could give to a political campaign. But, I'm beginning to think we do need caps on campaign contributions.

Yesterday, the "non-partisan" Illinois Policy Institute had an op-ed in the SJ-R opposing caps. Bottom line:

There are many good recommendations in the Illinois Reform Commission’s report that will give us the opportunity to improve our political system. But we deserve carefully crafted solutions that actually accomplish what they promise.
Campaign contributions and public financing don’t meet that standard.
Illinois should implement reforms that enable an active press, encourage the voter to be vigilant, and put the onus of ethical behavior back on the individual lawmaker.
Done right, we can ensure that Illinois politics will no longer be the punch line of jokes everywhere. The future of this great state shouldn’t be a laughing matter. (Kristina Rasmussen, Laura Renz: Contribution limits, public financing won’t fix state’s ethics problems.)

Also yesterday, the chairman of the Illinois Reform Commission, which was established by Gov. Pat Quinn to figure out how to clean up Illinois, had an op-ed in the Sun-Times in favor of contribution limits in line with federal limits, among other things. Bottom line:

We are hearing that, while limits at a much higher level may be considered, the sacred cow of legislative leaders being able to transfer as much as they like from their war chests to local races will remain just that, a sacred cow.
These transfers, when exceedingly large, are a gaping loophole that transforms local races into well-funded mudfights and erodes the independence of legislators once elected.
If sensible limits without loopholes are voted down Friday, the question has to be why? Why should we, of all states, be able to do what other states and the federal government prohibit? (Patrick Collins: Reform 'lite' same as no reform at all.)

I believe that vote was postponed today.

Then, today, this came up:

Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday that a campaign aide had made an embarrassing mistake by calling Springfield interest groups to raise political money and denied any intention of demanding contributions in exchange for special access to him.
But representatives from two trade associations told The Associated Press that Quinn’s campaign had contacted them offering “face time.” In one case, political director Holly Copeland acknowledged the need for political contributions but did not mention a specific amount. In another, she said the campaign’s “goal” for the meeting was $15,000.
[...]
Word of Quinn’s fundraising misstep, first reported by the political newsletter Capitol Fax, came on a day when ethics was the chief topic at the state Capitol.

Okay, it was just a mistake. A big one. And, talk about timing.

Whether we get limits on campaign contributions or not, maybe what we should really have is real time reporting of campaign contributions and a limit to the time a candidate could actively seek contributions for a campaign.

Update: The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform rounds up some newspaper op-eds on the subject:

Newspapers around the state have reviewed the Senate Democrats' campaign reform proposals, and found nothing to like. Setting caps that are as much as 6 times what the federal limits are and allowing unfettered transfers from parties and caucuses is not reform. But don't take it from us. The Daily Herald calls their ideas "practically meaningless." The Sun-Times calls it a "ruse." The Peoria Journal Star says it's "a deal breaker." And the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus say "a better proposal is HB 24/SB 1768."

And, they agree. Real, Meaningful Contribution Limits

Posted by Marie at May 22, 2009 11:06 PM

Comments

I still have mixed feelings about contribution limits. I'm all for a level playing field for all candidates but I'm not sure limits will accomplish it. It will surely give those who don't need contributions an advantage.

Posted by: Rob Author Profile Page at May 25, 2009 9:34 AM

And those who do need it, a major disadvantage. I'm not exactly sure what they're trying to accomplish by capping contributions.

Posted by: Marie at May 25, 2009 12:38 PM

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