ICPR Applauds Federal Pay-to-Play Rules

In 2008, Illinois was struggling to enact new rules on giving state contracts to campaign contributors.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich had raised millions of dollars for his campaign from donors who later got state contracts. Many of these were based out of state, had never given to Illinois candidates previously, and have not given to Illinois candidates since. A bill to ban this type of pay-to-play practice, and to require disclosure of campaign donations from contractors and bidders, was introduced. Every member of the Illinois House voted for the bill, and 48 of the 59 sitting state Senators sponsored the bill. Yet it was a struggle to enact the new law because Senate President Emil Jones did not want to embarrass his close ally, Gov. Blagojevich.

Jones' stranglehold on the bill was broken by then-US Sen. Barack Obama, who publicly called for his former colleague in the state Senate to hold a vote on the bill. Now, US President Obama is proposing similar disclosure rules for federal procurement. The Obama administration is circulating a draft Executive Order that would require companies bidding on contracts to disclose campaign contributions and independent expenditures that effect federal elections.

ICPR applauds this action. The federal context is different from Illinois', but many of the same problems persist. If contractors are also taking steps to benefit particular candidates, the public has a right to know if the political help factored in the letting of the contract. Disclosure is the sort of sunshine that can reveal problems or assure the public that there is nothing untoward.