The campaign finance reform bill passed last month is far from perfect, but it’s better than what lawmakers came up with during the spring session and better than what was suggested as the fall veto session started. Illinois deserves better. But considering we’ve gone from no limits to reasonable limits on everyone but party leaders during the general election, we think Gov. Pat Quinn should sign the legislation.
The campaign finance reform bill passed last month is far from perfect, but it’s better than what lawmakers came up with during the spring session and better than what was suggested as the fall veto session started.
Illinois deserves better. But considering we’ve gone from no limits to reasonable limits on everyone but party leaders during the general election, we think Gov. Pat Quinn should sign the legislation.
We have a long way to go in this state. We can’t thumb our nose at change, however incomplete or incremental.
Senate Bill 1466, which passed the House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday, limits donations from individuals to candidates at $5,000 per election. Businesses and unions can give $10,000 to a candidate and $20,000 to a political party or political action committee. PACs can give $50,000 per candidate.
Political parties and legislative leaders can give between $50,000 and $200,000 to primary election candidates. The legislation would allow major political leaders to donate as much money as they want in general elections. That’s no change.
We especially dislike that last provision because it makes party leaders more powerful than ever. However, reform groups who spent months haggling over the legislation say they’re not done and hope to get limits on party leaders next year.
We will hold them — and lawmakers — to that.
Another hole in the legislation is how donations have to be publicly reported. Candidates wouldn’t have to report the receipt until they deposit the money, which could be as late as after the election. That means candidates could hide the identities of supporters.
Reform advocates need to keep the pressure on. It would be easy for lawmakers to dismiss attempts at more reform with, “Hey, we already did that.”
We feared that attitude would prevail earlier this year when lawmakers approved House Bill 7. The bill passed by a veto-proof margin in both chambers. Quinn testified in both House and Senate committees as to the “landmark” nature of the bill. Senate President John Cullerton visited the Editorial Board in mid-August and listed HB7 as one of his bragging points.
The bill was more nonsense than reform: Its limits on campaign contributions were more than twice as lax as federal law.
Opposition has been strong and consistent from the major reform groups, including the Illinois Reform Commission, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and CHANGE Illinois! Still, the governor had said the bill was the “best we can do at this time.”
He was wrong then, but he would be right now.
Quinn wisely vetoed HB7 after the reform groups refused to back down. Since the veto, negotiations have been ongoing to fix the legislation.
We doubt any reform would have been possible if it weren’t for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich elevated pay-to-play politics to a new level. The Blagojevich scandal was the push lawmakers needed to change the way they do business.
Of course, it is in their own best interests to enter next year’s election cycle with more to show than a vote on impeachment.
We repeat, they are not done. We would prefer to see stronger reform, but cleaning up the political process in Illinois is not, and never will be, easy.
Rockford Register Star