PUBLIC RALLY CALLS FOR AN END TO CORRUPTION IN ILLINOIS POLITICS

Voters, Public join Civic, Business, Religious & Non-Profit Groups in Chicago to CHANGE Illinois!

Mere steps from indicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s office, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Chicago today with a simple message: “We’ve had enough!” Voters joined with civic and business leaders, religious and non-profit groups for a public CHANGE Illinois! rally calling for an end to corruption in Illinois politics.

“Corruption in Illinois has turned us from the land of Lincoln to a national laughingstock,” said Rev. Patricia Watkins, Executive Director of Target Area Development Corp. “We need to take special interest money out of Illinois politics – the people deserve to get their voices back.”

The rally, organized by CHANGE Illinois!, focused on the need to clean up Illinois politics now. Rally speakers drove home the need for political reform and urged the General Assembly to take action, including: Rev. Patricia Watkins, Executive Director of TARGET Area Development Corp.; Rami Nashashibi, Inner City Muslim Action Network, Executive Director; Merri Dee, AARP Illinois State President; Peter Bensinger, Chicago business leader and former Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Enlace Chicago, Executive Director; and Rev. Philip Blackwell, Senior Minister of First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple.

“On behalf of AARP’s nearly 2 million in Illinois, I can say we’re tired of politics as usual standing in the way of progress as it should be,” said Merri Dee, State President for AARP. “The people of Illinois need to stand up and demand that things change.”

CHANGE Illinois! has launched a statewide campaign to end the culture of corruption in Illinois politics. The coalition’s first priority is take large donations out of Illinois campaign through enacting strict campaign contribution limits. The coalition has been taking the message to communities across the state, setting up the CHANGE Illinois! Hotline (1-800-719-3020) to connect voters to their state lawmakers to urge them to help put an end to pay-to-play politics. Illinois is one of only four states with no limits on political campaign contributions.

“Unless people throughout Illinois contact their legislators and demand change, we’re going to see even more waste and corruption in our government,” Peter Bensinger, Co-Chair of CHANGE Illinois!, said. “If we can’t change the way government does business in Illinois, corporate leaders are going to think twice about doing business here.”

Since 1970, over 1000 Illinois public officials have been convicted of corruption, including 19 judges (serving half the state’s population), 30 Chicago Alderman, two Governors with a third now indicted and a former State Attorney General --- one conviction every other week.

For more information about the CHANGE Illinois! The Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics: www.ChangeIL.org