After one gubernatorial impeachment and months of negotiation, the Illinois Senate voted yesterday
to limit some contributions to political candidates as part of a
campaign-finance overhaul. Clearing the Senate by a 36-22 margin,
largely along party lines, HB 7 is the ...
After one gubernatorial impeachment and months of negotiation, the Illinois Senate voted yesterday to limit some contributions to political candidates as part of a campaign-finance overhaul. Clearing the Senate by a 36-22 margin, largely along party lines, HB 7 is the first bill in state history to cap the amount of money political candidates can receive. Appearing before a House committee this morning, Quinn described the proposal as "historic." But many of those pushing for campaign finance reform -- including the governor's own reform commission -- have pointed out the abundant loopholes.
The Sun-Times blasted the bill, saying that what the Senate "delivered, in reality, was squat." David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, told the Tribune that "any 2nd grader could figure out a way around" the restrictions. But as the quote above indicates, Quinn seems ready to sign the bill.
Here's a brief run-down of the details. Keep in mind that the contribution limits don't go into effect until January of 2011, after the next campaign cycle has concluded:
Contributions to candidates: A single candidate can only accept 5,000 from an individual, $10,000 from a labor union, association, or corporation, and $90,000 from state party and legislative leader political action committees (PAC). These caps are much higher than the reform commission recommended. The bill also caps contributions on an annual basis rather than by four-year election cycles, which seriously favors incumbents.
Contributions to PACs: A multi-candidate committee or PACs can only accept $10,000 from an individual and $20,000 from a union or corporation. This could dramatically hinder the ability of PACs to raise funds because they're largely dependent on corporations or wealthy donors.
In-kind contributions: These service or goods-based contributions will also be counted as monetary donations when provided by a PAC. However, they will not be subject to caps when contributed by leadership committees and state parties, essentially gutting the $90,000 cap listed above.
Constituent Services Committees: Strangely, the bill allows for the creation of "constituent service" committees, which the Journal-Register says will "collect funds to help pay for operating lawmakers' district offices." As Capitol Fax remarks, "those committees appear ripe for potential abuse."
Filing schedule: State political committees must report to Board of Elections quarterly as opposed to semi-annually. The timely filing period is extended from 30 to 60 days, meaning that in the two months leading up to an election, a candidate is required to report a donation within two days (and must now do so electronically). If a statewide candidate drops $250,000 in personal funds into his or her warchest, the campaign must notify the state within one day. (The caps on their competitor will be loosened as well.)
Primary endorsements: The bill also includes a provision prohibiting the state party from endorsing particular candidates in primaries, meaning Speaker Michael Madigan can't influence the gubenatorial primary next year (in which his daughter Lisa may be a candidate).
The short version: While the bill improves the frequency of disclosure and may dampen the amount PACs can raise, the caps will have little effect on individual campaigns, particularly considering that party leaders can still provide unlimited in-kind contributions. It also creates some questionable new vehicles for political activity. All in all, it's a disappointing result for those hoping to limit the power of special interests in the legislative process