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Monday, March 27

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State Politics Tue Mar 31 2009

Quinn Commission Unveils Reform Proposals

The 15-member Illinois Reform Commission convened by Gov. Pat Quinn, after plowing through an extremely rapid and ambitious schedule of meetings and hearings, today announced, in press conferences both in Chicago and Springfield, its preliminary proposals designed to reform multiple aspects of Illinois's culture of political corruption. Although scheduled to work through the end of April, the IRC wanted to get its key proposals, targeting "Pay to Play," into the legislative hopper before the consideration of bills gets set in stone.

The proposals primarily address campaign finance, procurement of state business, and enforcement mechanisms. They were made available both in text form and as a slideshow.

In campaign finance, some of the proposals are expected: a limit of $2,400 (paralleling the current federal limit) on individual contributions, with limits of $5,000 for other entities. Unlike federal campaigns, corporations and labor unions will still be allowed to contribute.

The unlimited transfer of funds from political committees, one to another, is also limited to $5,000, with the exception of party committees and legislative "caucus" committees, which can give up to $50,000 depending on the race in question; presumably this is designed to win leadership approval, since it preserves the ability of party leadership to direct relatively large sums of money to favored (or against disfavored) legislators.

Unexpected is that the disclosure rules will also be made more difficult and will specifically target "bundlers" of $16,000 or more, requiring committees to report bundling even if there is no express agreement or record, if the campaign has "reason to know" that the person bundling was doing so. Other somewhat surprising recommendations are that year-round "real time" reporting of large contributions take place, instead of only in the pre-election reports and the period leading up to an election.

The buzz I have heard is that some form of campaign limits is certain to pass this session; it will be hard for anyone to argue that the limits in Illinois should be greater than allowed for federal candidates.

Another key proposal is to move the primary to "no earlier" than June in order to shorten the too-long campaign (and thus fundraising) season; good-government groups generally favor this, and generally agree that September, as suggested by Quinn, is too late.

Unexpected but also included is a recommendation to try a pilot program for public financing, as early as the upcoming 2010 season, for judicial races only. An undetermined threshhold amount of small contributions would be required for a candidate to qualify for the public funds, and there is a "rescue" provision for the publicly-financed candidate who is being terribly outspent by an opponent who has declined public financing.

Numerous provisions aimed at pay-to-play in government contracts is included, most using transparency tools rather than additional outright bans on various activities.

The "enforcement" proposals are somewhat curious and may be met with resistance, consisting primarily of expanded wiretap capabilities for undefined "corruption" investigations.

On other fronts, the Freedom of Information Act is given greater presumption of applicability, and the Open Meetings Act would now apply to the state legislature.

Proposals for structural reform (e.g., in redistricting process, or for recall -- another "reform" said to be likely to pass) are yet to be propounded. A hearing is set on April 24 for sundry other ethics matters including possible expansion of who is covered under anti-patronage rules. The Commission then plans to submit recommendations for legislative reform to Quinn by April 27.

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electronics guy / April 27, 2009 12:50 AM

sound interesting

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