10.01.2008 0

Foiling Pay-to-Play in Illinois?

  • On: 10/21/2008 21:54:16
  • In: Government Transparency

  • The Illinois legislature has finally agreed on how to target questionable campaign donations from government contractors. And it’s about time! This ban, which has spent years in the making, will stop any business entity which secures a contract of over $50,000 from donating to a political campaign.

    Unfortunately, the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich (D), is intent on amending it—to the point that many fear it will no longer be passable by the legislature. That action could be construed as an indirect veto.

    The office of the Governor, however, claims that this is not the case. As Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero was quoted as saying:

    “The governor’s looking at ways to make it stronger…We don’t know when this (chance) will come around again. If we’re only going to get one bite of the apple, we want to make it a great bite.”

    Critics, however, are starting to see the worm in the apple.

    A completely retooled bill would have to first go back to the state legislature to be approved. The Illinois Legislature, which took years to draft the bill in its current agreed upon form, isn’t likely to approve the newly drafted Legislation containing the Governor’s added language. As a result, the bill—regardless of whether it’s the Legislature’s or the Governor’s version—will never pass into law.

    The desperately needed “Pay to Play” restrictions may never even see the light of day. Critics say this may have been the Governor’s plan from the beginning.

    And of course, this is no surprise. Governor Blagojevich has taken money from the top 50 government contractors, even accepting funds from the now-convicted criminal celebrity (and Obama bosom buddy) Tony Rezko. Incidentally, the governor’s wife worked with Rezko.

    As state Representative John Fritchey (D-Chicago) argues:

    “The governor is going to do whatever he can to derail this…He’s had six years to pursue an independent agenda on ethics, and he’s done nothing other than try to hamper it.”

    In typical politician fashion, Governor Blagojevich is trying to have it both ways. On one hand, he wants to look good before his constituents for standing up for what’s right. Meanwhile, however, he simply does not want to part with the enormous sums of cash he has been unscrupulously raking in from special interests and other businesses that support him.

    Another point worth considering is that the bill merely addresses half of the dilemma. While cracking down on campaign donations from businesses with no-bid government contracts is a big step forward, the bill also needs to address the issue of unions and their donations to political campaigns. Both businesses and unions ought to be barred from wielding such considerable insider support to their handpicked politicians.

    Regardless, if Governor Blagojevich gets his way, it seems neither will be restricted.

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