Today is a big day in Illinois politics, and not just because it’s the day ICPR is celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Today is also the last day to file challenges to candidate petitions for statewide and legislative offices.
December 9, 2013
December 9: End of the Challenge Period (among other things)
November 25, 2013
Petition Filing and the Statement of Economic Interest
Candidates seeking nomination in the March primary began filing their petitions this morning. Along with the petitions, candidates also submit a host of other papers, including the Code of Fair Campaign Practices and the receipt for their Statement of Economic Interest, among other documents.
October 25, 2013
Alan Dixon on Tour
Alan Dixon was in town the other day, signing copies of his book, The Gentleman from Illinois. He’s been on a bit of a tour these last months, and I was glad to have a chance to meet the man and hear a little of what he had to say.
His book is a great collection of stories from throughout his tenure in Illinois politics, from running errands for party leaders while in high school through his service in the legislature and on into his election as state Treasurer, Secretary of State, and ultimately US Senator. While the book is organized chronologically, Dixon has so many stories to tell about so many people that he freely jumps around when a particular event he’s relating demands it. So many different people make cameos that the index runs a dozen pages of small print, and the book is a revelatory joy to read.
One story that jumped out at me came early in the book. In 1951, Dixon, still in his first term as a state representative, was working at his law office when two people came to see him. They congratulated him on his success in the legislature and handed him an envelope stuffed with $100 bills, the results of a collection “taken up …. of levee district workers.” Dixon writes, “under the practice or system of that era, the gesture could be regarded as a campaign contribution.” But, he continues, “I admit to being terrified.” He refused to accept the money, and when the men try to leave it on his desk, he follows them into the hall and throws the envelope at them.
Were these men lobbyists? No, Illinois’ first lobbyist registration law wasn’t passed until 1957. Was this clearly a campaign contribution? There wouldn't be campaign disclosure and reporting for another two decades. These were just two people who wanted to give Dixon a lot of money and nothing prevented it at all, except for Dixon’s discomfort with the transaction.
Dixon’s history underscores how far Illinois has come since then. Under the laws today, if levee district workers raised money, they’d form a PAC and disclose it. Dixon would also have to have a PAC to receive the money, and he’d also be subject to disclosure. Dixon doesn’t say how much money was in the envelope, just that when he threw it at them it exploded on impact, and he saw the men “picking up $100 bills all over the floor and even the sidewalk.” If there were just 13 bills, that envelope was worth more than $11,300 in today’s money. A PAC could give that much, but two people could not.
When I got to meet Dixon at the book signing, we shook hands and I told him that I had worked with Paul Simon at the Campaign for Political Reform. He lit right up and told me how he’d recently been at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and how much he enjoyed working with Paul over the years. The book makes this clear: Paul Simon appears throughout, as a colleague and seatmate in the legislature and later in the US Senate. And Dixon makes clear that he saw Simon as more than a colleague; he respected Simon for showing how to engage in the political process while retaining his ethical compass.
Dixon’s book is a fun and enlightening first-hand account of Illinois government through the ages. Catch him on tour if he comes to your town.