Illinois ethics reform fails; maybe Mike Madigan was a symptom, not the cause, of lawmakers’ reluctance on this
With seven current and former state lawmakers, three Chicago aldermen and a Cook County commissioner facing federal criminal charges in recent years, it looked like Illinois lawmakers might finally decide to take the issue seriously. strengthening of state ethical laws.
They did not do it. Again.
Oh, they passed an ethics bill, and it brings some improvements around the edges.
But, as always, the legislation stopped long before it showed any real commitment to cleaning up government.
Coming after the coerced retirement of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, this latest failure to act decisively on ethics may well give someone the idea that Madigan was just a symptom of the way this state does business, not the only cause.
If Madigan is indicted, there will be pressure for lawmakers to take over this case, as was the case after the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich scandals. But resistance to reform runs deep in Illinois.
Doing business is at the heart of the problem – more specifically, the reluctance of Illinois politicians to limit their opportunities to earn money or to give up their privacy in this regard.
Take one of the new “reforms”. For the first time, this prevents lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for six months after leaving office – but only in a way.
Never mind that most states set this kind of revolving door ban at a year or more to avoid the rather obvious problem of creating the impression that the people making the laws could be of service to the people they seek employment with. .
Even with the paltry six-month limit, Illinois lawmakers have given themselves a yawning loophole. The six-month ban does not extend to the next session of the legislature. Which means lawmakers can step down at the end of their term and start working as a lobbyist the next day, when the new two-year session begins.
One wonders why they set a limit, except for the obvious reason: they wanted the audience to think they did. Something.
There’s also a new ban on lawmakers being hired to lobby state or local governments, designed to address the ludicrous situation in which now-indicted state representative Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, was paid to try to legalize slots in Chicago. at the same time, he was working to advance this same cause in Springfield.
But lawmakers have also left a loophole. They can still lobby local governments as long as their client is not registered to lobby the General Assembly. What if they simply made a choice between lobbying and serving as lawmakers?
Lawmakers will not force this choice because they do not want to do anything that might interfere with their ability to leverage their public service for personal financial gain.
All major benefactor groups – the Better Government Association, Reform for Illinois, CHANGE Illinois, and Common Cause – called the legislation inadequate.
While I have never found members of one political party more ethical than the other, Democrats control Springfield, so they must wear the jacket for this failure.
It is not that the law is entirely without merit. For example, there is a new requirement that elected officials and certain employees must disclose any source of income that exceeds $ 7,500. This appears to be an improvement, with the exception of the threshold of $ 7,500.
It has always amazed me how many politicians in Illinois have been bought for well under $ 7,500. Even taking inflation into account, $ 7,500 is too high.
Why not just force them to disclose all sources of income? That doesn’t mean they would reveal a bribe. But that might lock them in a bit the next time they think about hiring as a “consultant”.
Ideally, they should also disclose the amount of money received, or at least be required to provide a range.
It is also an improvement that anyone required to file an EOI will have to disclose assets valued at over $ 10,000 and debts over $ 10,000.
He will address the problem of politicians taking out personal loans, some of which are never repaid, from people who might want a favor. But again, why only $ 10,000 or more?
I never believed that we could legislate on honesty in politics. But it is certainly possible to make life more uncomfortable for someone prone to dishonestly operating.