Real, Meaningful Contribution Limits

Newspapers around the state have reviewed the Senate Democrats' campaign reform proposals, and found nothing to like. Setting caps that are as much as 6 times what the federal limits are and allowing unfettered transfers from parties and caucuses is not reform. But don't take it from us. The Daily Herald calls their ideas "practically meaningless." The Sun-Times calls it a "ruse." The Peoria Journal Star says it's "a deal breaker." And the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus say "a better proposal is HB 24/SB 1768." Read for youself:

The Daily Herald (May 22, 2009) -- "The anti-corruption groups support donation limits per election cycle of $2,400 from individuals. That means that in a four-year Senate term, someone could give a Senate candidate a total of $4,800 for the primary and general elections. But the Senate plan just unveiled would allow for $10,000 donations every calendar year, or a total of $40,000 to a candidate in a four-year term. Even more alarming, Harmon's plan, so far, has no limit whatsoever on the contributions legislative leaders can make to candidates. That key lack of a limit on leadership contributions makes the Senate plan to cap campaign contributions practically meaningless."

The Peoria Journal Star (May 22, 2009) -- "But ultimately any progress here is undone with no ceilings being imposed on the largesse of legislative leaders, and might be a step backward. If you believe as we do that the speaker of the House and the Senate president have too much muscle now, this arguably would give them more, making rank-and-file members even more dependent on them while tying up the wallets of others. It's tantamount to no reform at all; as such, a deal-breaker."

The Moline Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus (May 21, 2009) -- "To discourage corruption and loosen the four tops" stranglehold, we urge leadership to call for and lawmakers to demand new limits on government corruption with a 'yes' vote on HB24 and SB1768."

The Chicago Sun-Times (May 22, 2009) -- "Madigan, Cullerton, et al, have decided they might be willing to enact campaign contribution limits on individuals, businesses and unions -- but limits that are so high and generous they would be virtually meaningless. And, of course, Madigan, Cullerton, et al, show absolutely no willingness to limit their own ability to shower money on their fellow politicians."

ICPR agrees with these newspapers. Limits must be meaningful and comprehensive. Setting limits that are too high will do nothing to prevent officials from laundering payoffs through their campaign funds -- or from looking like that's what they are doing. Allowing unlimited transfers from parties and caucuses turns them into washing machines for contributors who have maxed out their donations to particular officials. Grousing and grumbling aside, it works at the federal level. It's time Illinois joined the modern world.

If you agree, speak up! Contact your elected representative by calling 1-800-719-3020. Send them an e-mail by going here. Scheduled adjournment is barely a week away. Now is the time to be heard.