ICPR SAYS MUCH MORE WORK NEEDED ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LIMITS LEGISLATION

HOUSE BILL 7 IS FULL OF LOOPHOLES

Over the objections of reform advocates throughout the state, the Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill (HOUSE BILL 7) to establish contribution limits but with so many loopholes that the legislation is "limits" in name only.

Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR), issued the following statement:

“The disappointing Senate action should not be rubberstamped by the House,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “This phony reform should be blocked, and reform-minded legislators should insist on filling the loopholes created by the Senate.”

ICPR and the CHANGE Illinois! coalition have advocated real reform modeled after the federal system of campaign limits -- $2,400 limit on individual contributions, $5,000 limit on PAC, business and union contributions and a $30,000 limit on contribution from legislative leadership PACs to legislative candidates.

SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH HOUSE BILL 7

NO LIMIT ON IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS: Not only are the dollar amounts of the limits high but there are no limits on "in-kind" contributions from one candidate's committee to another. That means legislative leaders could use campaign funds to hire staff, pay for commercials and send direct mail on behalf of candidates. None of those would be covered by a contribution limit. It has the potential to exempt millions of dollars from the limits.

ANNUAL (CALENDAR YEAR) vs. ELECTION CYCLE LIMITS: Because the federal system uses election cycles of primary and general elections, officeholders and challengers are treated the same. But the Senate bill would set limits -- $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a PAC, business or union -- on a calendar year basis. That protects incumbents. For example, using the federal system, a governor and challenger could each get no more than two maximum contributions in a four-year period. But under the calendar year system, sitting governors could collect the maximum level in each of the governor's four years in office. Because challengers usually don't gear up for campaigning and fundraising until about two years before the election, a challenger could collect the limit from a contributor only twice before the general election. That's a potential 2-to-1 advantage for an incumbent.

TRANSFERS FROM LEADERS' (AND OTHERS') COMMITTEES: Any candidate for any office in Illinois could transfer up to $90,000 in cash to another candidate's committee. There are so many potential transfers of funds from committee to committee that it would be easy for legislative leaders to maneuver millions of dollars to targeted candidates. The end result would be the same as exists today.

ENFORCEMENT: Enforcement of campaign finance laws would remain extremely weak in Illinois. We had recommended the State Board of Elections be directed to make random audits of campaign committees to determine whether they were disclosing the contributions and expenditures required by law. The Senate bill would only give the State Board of Elections the ability to order an audit when a committee failed to file a quarterly report two times in a calendar year.