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May 11, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich unveils sweeping campaign finance reform proposal
Governor’s plan applies McCain-Feingold law to state elected offices; unveils series of new ethics reforms

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today outlined a comprehensive campaign finance reform package to overhaul the state’s political fundraising system and strengthen state ethics requirements.  Modeled after the federal McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the Governor’s plan would apply to all state elected officials, including candidates for state senator, state representative and executive branch constitutional offices, political committees and state party committees. 




Sponsored by Sen. Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Norris City), the Governor’s proposal calls for a total ban on all contributions from corporations and unions, and limits contributions from individuals to $2,000 per candidate per election and from political committees and state parties to $5,000 per candidate per election.  Illinois is currently one of only five states with no limits on campaign contributions.




“This proposal means dramatic and fundamental change to the way campaign finance works in Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “It brings our system in line with the federal system.  If we’re successful, for the first time ever, Illinois will have strict limitations in place on who donates to political campaigns and how much they can contribute.  When I was a member of Congress, I voted for the McCain-Feingold campaign reform package.  Applying it to state office holders in Illinois is the right thing to do.” 




"Illinois' lack of restrictions on campaign fundraising and expenditures has made the public distrustful of politicians and cynical of the system.  This proposal is a very important first step toward regaining the public's trust.  I am proud to sponsor the Governor's plan because it is a meaningful and broad-based effort to reform what is now a broken system," said Sen. Ronen.




Following the framework of limitations and prohibitions in effect under federal law, the Governor’s plan:




  • Completely prohibits contributions from corporations and unions.  This would be Illinois’ first limitation on contributions from any corporate entity. 




  • Limits individuals to contributions of $2,000 per candidate per election.  This would be the first limit ever placed on donations to candidates by individuals in Illinois.




  • Limits Political Action Committees (PACs) to contributions of $5,000 per candidate per election.  This is the first limit ever placed on donations to candidates from Political Action Committees (PACs) in Illinois.




  • Limits state party contributions to $5,000 per candidate per election. 




  • Limits contributions to state parties and PACs to $5,000 a year from individuals or other PACs.




  • Prohibits an individual from contributing more than $40,000 in total contributions to all candidates, party committees and PACs in any election cycle.




  • Includes provisions for candidates whose opponents exceed the threshold amount of personal spending – mirroring the federal law.




"Today, I stand by my Governor in support of this critical legislation.  I believe it's a commonsense, necessary and broad plan that addresses the public cynicism about the political process.  I encourage my colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly to join us in this effort," said Rep. Phelps.






“Illinois has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass long-overdue ethics and campaign finance reforms,” Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said.  “Democracy in the Land of Lincoln should be about ‘one person one vote’, not ‘one dollar one vote’.”




The Governor is also calling for a series of new, thorough ethics reforms – ranging from increased public disclosure of financial interests to limits on who can lobby state government.  The Governor’s plan includes many of the proposals that have been outlined by advocacy groups like the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and Common Cause/Illinois, as well as some components that have been introduced by Senators Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) and David Sullivan (R-Park Ridge) as well as Representatives Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Elizabeth Coulson (R-Glenview). The Governor’s proposal: 




  • Improves Statements of Economic Interest.  Currently, Illinois requires public officials to report limited information about their occupation, employer and potential conflicts of interest. The Governor is calling for a greater level of detail regarding public officials’ financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest.




  • Requires Disclosure of Lobby Contracts and Improved Lobbyist Regulations.  Current law requires lobbyists to list their clients and gifts on public disclosure forms.  The Governor’s plan requires lobbyists to disclose the terms of their contracts, including fees and exactly who they lobby. 




  • Closes the Revolving Door between Public Officials and Lobbying Firms.  Current law places a one-year prohibition on former state employees working for companies they regulated or to which they awarded contracts.  The Governor calls for extending the law by requiring a one-year prohibition on all former legislators and state employees lobbying. 




  • Strengthens the State Board of Elections enforcement powers. For example, the Governor’s proposal would allow the State Board of Elections to perform audits of election committees to determine that the committee is complying with state laws, including contribution limits. 




  • Distributes non-partisan candidate information through Voters Guides.  Voters Guides would be posted online by the State Board of Elections and would contain information such as the date and time of the general election as well as a description of elected offices and statements and photographs of candidates for the General Assembly, statewide executive branch constitutional offices, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, and Illinois Appellate Court Judge. 




  • Provides More Frequent Campaign Financial Disclosure.  Current law requires candidates to report their campaign finances twice a year.  The Governor proposes requiring candidates to file their campaign finances quarterly.




  • Prohibits law firms, consulting firms and lobbying firms that have contracts with the state (including the Governor’s, Attorney General’s, Secretary of State’s, Comptroller’s and Treasurer’s offices, state agencies or state regulatory boards) from providing income to members of the state legislature, state employees, and board appointees.




  • Prohibits legislators or state employees from earning outside income by directly lobbying or receiving compensation from any firm that lobbies the General Assembly or any agency of the Executive Branch.  This includes lobbying the office of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer, state agencies or state regulatory boards.




  • Prohibits family members of state employees, including those of legislators, from lobbying the state (including all constitutional offices, state agencies and state regulatory boards) or from serving on state boards or commissions for which they receive compensation.




  • Conflict of Interest Provision.  The Governor’s plan prohibits a public official or public employee from voting or making an official decision if the official or employee (or a business or organization they or a family member is associated with) has a financial interest in the vote or decision.




  • Prohibits any officer of any state campaign organization from receiving state contracts, lobbying the state (including the office of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller and Treasurer, state agencies or state regulatory boards) or from participating in investments involving the state. 




“The campaign finance reform proposal released today by Governor Blagojevich offers a thoughtful and comprehensive solution to long-standing public concerns about the influence of money in Illinois politics.   The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform believes this plan will put Illinois in step with the rest of the nation and let the voters know their voices have been heard over the din of special interest money.  We encourage the General Assembly to act on these measures,” said Cynthia Canary, the director of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.




"Campaign contributions limits exist in 45 states. We applaud this proposal by the Governor and hope that Illinois is finally ready to join to rest of the nation in setting limits in the amount of money unions corporations and individuals can give to political campaigns. Limiting the influence of money in Springfield will help end business as usual. We hope that the governor and the legislature can work together to make this a reality before the end of this session," said Hugo Rojas, Executive Director of Common Cause/Illinois.




Also supporting the Governor’s sweeping and comprehensive reform plan is Judge Abner J. Mikva.  Currently a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Judge Mikva has devoted nearly half a century to public service and has made countless contributions toward transparency and ethics in government. Judge Mikva served in the Illinois House of Representatives, the U.S. Congress and served as Chief Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  He also served as White House Counsel in the mid-90s.  




“I support the Governor’s proposal because it represents the first comprehensive plan to stop the influence peddlers from having their way in Springfield,” said Judge Mikva.  “The Governor’s plan covers contributions, it covers spending and it addresses the relationship between elected officials and lobbyists.  The people of this state would be well-served by this proposal.” 






“I urge members of the General Assembly to pass this proposal.  It’s time we pass a comprehensive set of rules to govern how political candidates finance campaigns,” said Gov. Blagojevich.


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