When the General Assembly reconvenes next week for the final three days of their fall veto session, all eyes will turn to SB 1466, the bill introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) to overhaul the state's campaign finance system. This version addresses ...
When the General Assembly reconvenes next week for the final three days of their fall veto session, all eyes will turn to SB 1466, the bill introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) to overhaul the state's campaign finance system. This version addresses some concerns reformers had with HB 7, the campaign finance bill passed in the spring and then vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn this summer -- with the support of the state's four legislative leaders. But lawmakers remain deadlocked over one issue: how much money those same legislative leaders can hand out during election cycles.
HB 7 would have implemented a $90,000 cap on contributions from state party and legislative leader political action committees (PAC), although in-kind contributions from those same sources were not subject to any restrictions, essentially gutting that portion of the law. In SB 1466, which passed out of committee on a party-line vote last week, Madigan makes that loophole explicit. Now reformers are scrambling to amend the language before it's voted on by either full chamber.
It's obvious why CHANGE Illinois and its allies are fighting so strenuously for a cap. For starters, a strong majority of the public support such a restriction. But check out this data prepared by Megan Moore at the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Between 2006 and 2008, political party committees and legislative caucuses in Illinois distributed $22.8 million to candidates, comprising 16 percent of total contributions earned from the economic sector. That means the "Four Tops" and other party elders spent more money than labor unions (12.5 percent), business interests (9 percent), and the notoriously powerful financial services and real estate industry (9 percent). In other words, they are the most influential lobby in town.
Both parties take advantage of the system in place. Illinois Republican party committees contributed nearly $5.5 million to legislative candidates in 2008, about $50o,000 more than their Democratic counterparts. (To be fair, both Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and Republican House Leader Tom Cross have expressed support for limits on party donations.)
Will unlimited transfers be curtailed next week? The key players have stayed mum so far. But we will find out soon enough.
Image used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Sean_Marshall.