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History & Reform Goals

ICPR has three main approaches to issues:

  • Lobbying and legislative advocacy
  • Litigation though courts and administrative processes
  • Public education through direct meetings and through the media.

ICPR’s legislative victories include the passage of the 1998 Gift Ban Act, the 2002 Inspector Misconduct Act, the 2003 State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, the 2005 Voters Guide Act, and the 2009 changes to FOIA and the procurement code. ICPR also played a lead role in the 2009 revisions to the Election Code that enacted contribution limits, instituted quarterly reporting, and mandated year-round supplemental reports for large contributions, as well as further revisions in 2012 that codified regulations of Independent Expenditure Committees (so-called “SuperPACs”). ICPR has also worked with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and a small number of other local governments on a range of ethics and transparency matters, including Inspectors General, Statements of Economic Interest, and campaign contributions from contractors.

ICPR has won victories with complaints and other matters filed through the State Board of Elections, the Executive Ethics Commission, and the Public Access Counselor. ICPR has participated in litigation in the Illinois Appellate Court to appeal rulings by the State Board of Elections, and has filed several Amicus Curiae briefs in the state Supreme Court, federal District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in various matters, aided by pro bono counsel from law firms including DLA Piper, Sidley & Austin, and Goldberg Kohn.

ICPR is an active member of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition and works with a wide variety of reform and community groups to formulate public policy positions, seek their implementation, and educate the public.

ICPR’s institutional culture is focused on transparency and reform of government processes. ICPR is one of the few statewide groups that holds everyone to the same standard, that is free to criticize anyone who transgresses and at the same time free to cheer anyone who does the right thing. That voice is important and needed in Illinois today.

1.  Reform Goals

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is a non-partisan public interest group that conducts research and advocates reforms to promote public participation in government, address the role of money in politics and encourage integrity, accountability, and transparency in government. To make real this mission, we support:

  • Making elections more competitive by introducing fair, sensible contribution limits on individual, corporate and union, contributions, and transfers from other politicians.
  • Mandating timely and full disclosure of lobbying activities, public officials’ economic interests, campaign contributions and expenditures, and other matters related to public business and the use of public resources.
  • Restoring electoral integrity by allowing candidates the option of leaving the special interest rat race and instead drawing public funds for campaign finances.
  • Encouraging fair, substantive campaigns by promoting compliance with Illinois’ Code of Fair Campaign Practices, developing non-partisan, state-sponsored voter education guides and advocating improved media coverage of campaign issues.
  • Supporting an informed electorate by developing non-partisan, state-sponsored voter education guides.
  • Advocating improved media coverage of electoral campaigns and governmental issues.
  • Providing full public financing for Illinois Supreme Court elections.

2. ICPR’s Current Focus

Campaign Finance

ICPR worked closely with the legislature to craft the 2009 campaign finance reform measure which, among other changes, instituted campaign contribution limits for the first time. ICPR has worked closely with the State Board of Elections and the Campaign Finance Reform Task Force to study implementation of the 2009 law, focused on protecting the contribution limits that were enacted while at the same time expanding disclosure to ensure that voters know who supports or opposes the candidates on their ballot. ICPR is also participating as an amicus in litigation where the constitutionality of Illinois campaign finance limits is being challenged. ICPR also seeks new regulations on SuperPACs to ensure that they are fully removed from any candidate’s orbit, and new disclosures from entities, especially politically active non-profit organizations, that funnel money from private interests to the benefit of chosen candidates.

ICPR has also been a strong advocate of the need for fundamental reform to our current campaign finance system. ICPR believes that the ever-increasing costs of campaigns coupled with the disproportional and increasing influence of ultra-wealthy and special interest campaign donors undermining our representative democracy. ICPR supports small donor matching systems that would make it possible for candidates who are not independently wealthy to run competitive campaigns without the need to mortgage their campaigns to the special interest money.

Senate Bill 248 is another initiative ICPR has been working on with Senate President John Cullerton’s office. This bill increases reporting requirements for Independent Expenditures, otherwise known as electioneering activities, over $1,000. Current Illinois requirements leave a significant amount of these expenditures unreported prior to a general or primary election. By increasing the reporting requirements and timelines year-round, we will ensure that the vast majority of these expenditures are reported prior to Election Day.

Transparency and Lobbyist Disclosure

ICPR has long advocated for higher ethical standards and more transparency from state and local government officials and agencies. Over the years ICPR has worked with legislators, other state officials and other reform groups on a variety of legislation that has been enacted to impose such higher ethical standards and require greater discloser and transparency by the state and local governments in Illinois.

ICPR also has sought more disclosure related to lobbying in Illinois. At the federal level, as well as in Cook County and the City of Chicago, lobbyists must disclose their billings to clients and more detail about the activity on behalf of those clients. ICPR has also defended the public’s right to access government records through the Freedom of Information Act. These two distinct policy goals are often pursued with the same tools.

In order to show what sort of activity lobbyists were undertaking that was not captured by current disclosure rules, ICPR began a survey in 2007 of lobbying by units of local government. Our goal was to argue for greater disclosure by state lobbyists. ICPR set out to obtain records on state lobbying from the one source required to release them: Public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act. The survey grew to over 400 units of government and became both the most thorough investigation into state lobbying activities and also the largest annual FOIA survey in Illinois. As ICPR identified problems with recalcitrant units of government, we have advocated for stronger FOIA provisions. For instance, when PACE refused to mail FOIA responses, ICPR filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor, securing a ruling that public bodies must mail FOIA responses to requestors. Similarly, when public bodies refused to disclose lobbyist contracts on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, ICPR advocated for changes to FOIA to exempt activities that do not require a lawyer from the privilege.

This year ICPR is also working with Representative Scott Drury on a bill to require local units of government to publicly disclose their use of lobbyists.

Judicial Independence

For over a decade, as judicial elections have become increasingly expensive, ICPR has been at the heart of efforts to protect the judiciary from the pernicious effects of campaign finance. We continue to explore public financing of judicial campaigns, aware that both tight public budgets and shifting case law complicate the development of a successful plan. ICPR has also offered a critique of standards put forth by the Illinois State Bar Association and filed a letter with the Illinois Supreme Court seeking tougher recusal standards for judges in cases involving contributors to the judges election campaigns. ICPR is also participating in efforts spearheaded by the Chicago Appleseed Fund and Chicago Council of Lawyers to reform the electoral process by which judges run for retention in Cook County.

Redistricting

ICPR convened the Illinois Campaign for Accountable Redistricting (ICAR), a first-of-its-kind effort to bring political reform groups and civil rights groups together to find common ground. In that capacity and as fiscal agent for ICAR, ICPR helped develop and promulgate the ICAR Map, a complete, full-state map of all 177 House and Senate districts, which was fully compliant with the federal Voting Rights Act and was supported by a range of political reform and civil rights organizations. ICPR continues to work on redistricting, independently, and with the CHANGE Illinois! coalition on their redistricting proposal. We anticipate a full, engaged effort to educate the public about the problems inherent in the current map-making process, dominated for the last four censuses by a single party.

3.  Internet Presence

Ilcampaign.org is the main homepage for ICPR’s internet presence. The URL has been used since our founding and is well known among media and officials around the state as the gateway to our on-line offerings.

IllinoisSunshine.org was launched in 2012 as a stand-alone Internet home for the Sunshine Database. The Sunshine Database was designed to be an easy-to-use portal to introduce voters to a wide array of information about candidates, and it remains immensely popular with voters, students, and reporters. ICPR’s elements of the Sunshine Database include listings of all candidates for statewide, legislative, judicial, Cook County and Chicago offices going back to 2004; Independent Expenditure activity since 2011; ICPR’s candidate questionnaires, receipts and expenditures, coded by industry or purpose; electronic versions of the Statement of Economic Interest for all candidates for statewide, legislative, Cook and Chicago office; photos of all candidates. The Sunshine Database can process updated campaign receipts information in about an hour; we update the site daily during election season and weekly the rest of the year.

 

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Alphawood Foundation Chicago McCormick Foundation

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As the leading reform group for Illinois, ICPR is a non-partisan public interest group that conducts research and advocates reform.

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