It seems like an eternity ago that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a legislative package that overhauls how Illinois politicians finance their campaigns. Starting Saturday, those rules will finally go into effect.
As we noted yesterday, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has produced a primer (PDF) on the new campaign finance reform measure that's well worth a read. At its heart, the bill attempts to rein in the often-corrosive influence of big money in state politics by tightening some of the weakest donation regulations in the nation. For the first time ever, there will be caps placed on the amount of cash individuals, PACs, and businesses can contribute each election cycle. Illinois' system for disclosing donations will be enhanced, too.
To be sure, the battle for reform isn't over. The law still preserves the ability of the four legislative leaders and the major political parties to dole out unlimited funds during the general election period, a loophole reformers want to close. This coming year, a bipartisan task force will also analyze how the bill functions and will deliver recommendations for improvements by January 1, 2012. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) have already asked the appointees to "look into how the state might begin public financing of campaigns," which would be enormously significant. We will be following that story closely in 2011.