Thursday, October 13, 2005

Waiting to Be Rocked

It is not an exaggeration to say that you cannot go a day in this state without reading a story regarding governmental scandal or campaign improprieties. The old adage should be revised to 'nothing is certain but death, taxes and political scandal'. And while I for one am glad that these issues are finally getting the attention that they deserve, you would think that after decades of this nonsense, elected officials would be tripping over themselves to get out in front of this issue.

For almost the enitrety of my tenure as a legislator, I have worked with a handful of colleagues and some good government groups on the issues of campaign finance reform and governmental ethics. Often times, these efforts were met with disdain and contempt by many of my colleagues. And despite the patent commonsense nature of some of these measures (prohibiting state inspectors from soliciting contributions from people and businesses they inspect), these fights often take years (8 in the case of the Inspector Misconduct Act) But occasionally you win one and it keeps you energized to fight on.

Having had these fights with Governor Ryan for his whole tenure, and helping my House predecessor become Governor, I had assumed that things would be markedly different. But many of the proponents of the countless reforms that still need to be enacted are still saddled with a sense of frustration.

What got me to write about this today is an column by Bernie Schoenburg in today's Journal-Register that started off by talking about Ray LaHood's critique of the state of Illinois politics. And the focus here is campaign finance reform, not LaHood. Bernie adeptly notes the political upside to getting in front of the reform issue, noting:

But If the governor can take time away from the publicity train he's now boarded to seek a way to get insurance to all children in Illinois, you can bet he'll give the finance reform package a go in the legislature sometime between now and the election of November 2006.

Which is really what I figured would have happened some time ago. But the hypocrisy that got me going was something said by Pete Giangreco (who in the interest of full disclosure, is someone at whom I'm somewhat miffed. I think he knows why, not that he cares):

PETE GIANGRECO, a spokesman for the Blagojevich campaign, said the governor's top priority during the veto session, which starts Oct. 25, will be passage of the All Kids insurance program. Giangreco also said that Republicans nationally have generally supported campaign disclosure, but not the kinds of reforms both Blagojevich and LaHood are now talking about.

"We welcome Ray LaHood belatedly to the fight," Giangreco said. (emphasis added)

This past March, the Governor talked about rocking the system. Nothing happened for two months until mid-May, at which time, they put out a press release, not a bill, but a press release, touting the plan. (Not wanting to rain on some very good ideas, I held my tongue when asked about the release, not realizing that a crumple was fair game for a news story. My comments would have been much more newsworthy.) Then a bill gets dropped way past the time when anything could have been done during session.

And they welcome LaHood belatedly to the fight? I sat on the Governor's ethics transition team with some of the best and brightest this state has to offer. We all knew then, and know now, what needed to be done.

So where's this rant going? If there is time to draft and pass a major initiative like All Kids during Veto Session, there is sure as hell the time to enact a lot of these overdue reform measures. And do it without the poison pills like caps on interPAC transfers which, right or wrong, is a surefire non-starter with the leaders.

At a bare minimum, I would like the Governor to show the same leadership that he is showing on All Kids, on House Bill 4073, (Fritchey-Black), which eliminates pay to play by state contractors. How wide is the support for that measure? Keep your eyes on the papers in the next couple of weeks. This bill can, and should, be passed during Veto Session.

It's not my intention to get into a snit with the Governor's folks, although it is interesting that while every other group has worked with me on these issues, I have been excluded from participation by the Governor's office. I have pleaded with them to move on this stuff, for both political as well as substantive reasons. Listen, I don't care who gets the credit for this stuff, let's just get it done.

At the end of the day, many of us are sick and tired of being collateral victims of the public perception of elected officials which results from the actions of others. Not to take a thing away from insuring our children, but the Governor was not swept into office by health insurance issues, it was by a populace fed up with business as usual. The Governor's people are great at knowing how to push the right political buttons. How can you pick up a paper and not understand what the big button is right now?

The All Kids proposal shows that when there is a will, they can always find a way. Rock on.


At October 13, 2005 at 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post Rep. As I have stated before, I don't agree with some of your politics, but you have been steadfast on this issue and I respect you for it.

You are right. Either for political gain or for simply doing what's right, you would think that the Blago machine would be all over this issue. Too bad you guys aren't working in lockstep on this one. I'd love to know why :)

At October 13, 2005 at 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rod's not pushing campaign finance reform because his staggering warchest is one of the things that he is going to use to try to show some credibility in 08.

At October 13, 2005 at 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with you Fritchey. I think that the Governor would have been smart to nail this issue down early on to solidify his campaign promises. But obviously, while this issue may be important to you and others, and understandably so, he has made a determination that the healthcare issue is a bigger one and I agree with him on that point. I guess though that if he would have done the campaign stuff last spring, this wouldn't have to be an either/or proposition.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you make the system less corrupt when the only people who have the power to change the system are benefitting directly (and handsomely) from that corruption?

Why would they have any incentive to reform?

The only way I see it is that reform will only come when *not* reforming will mean a reduction in power. And I don't know how that would happen

At October 13, 2005 at 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:02, that's the point. Reform has to be demanded by the public. If it doesn't happen now, it may never happen. The public gets what they demand and not a bit more.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a private citizen who goes to work everyday and who is envolved in my community I have a chance to talk with people daily about what is on their minds.

There is hardly a week goes by that somewhere in a conversation that health care or health insurance doesn't come up, on the other hand I can honestly say I haven't heard one person cry out for, or even bring it up, campaign finance reform.

Lots of people will critisize Governor Blagojevich for the All Kids proposal but I hope and pray that he and our legislative leaders stick to their guns and get this very important bill passed so our children can get much needed health insurance.

All Kids health plan should be the Governors first and foremost

Do we need campaign finace reform? Yes. Is it the most important issue facing Illinois residents? NO.

Un-insured kids in Illinois can live healthy lives without campaign finance reform, they can't live healthy lives with out health insuance.

Before I could finish this post there was a car accident in front of our house. My wife and I along with other neighbors went out to help the injured. I couldn't help but notice that in the back seat of one of the vehicles was a childs seat, no child was in it thank god. I had to wonder if there had been a child in that seat, would they have had health insurance to cover them? I also wondered did the young lady driving the car who was injured have health insurance?

Again I say, health insurance for our kids should be the priority.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the previous posters, and at the risk of speaking for the Rep., this should NOT be a discussion of either/or. Blago has been in office almost THREE YEARS. And while he signed off on an ethics bill that was the work product of others, he has shown no leadership on the campaign finance issue.

SBC bill, filed, passed and signed in a week.

All Kids, he proclaims that it will be passed in veto session before a bill is even drafted.

But despite his 'Reform and Renewal' backdrop that he is so fond of, he doesn't do a damn thing to push his own initiatives on finance reform. This is why there is a credibility gap. This could have been done, could be done now, and would be a big political plus for him. But he pushes it off to the side, not only to get mileage out of it next spring, but so that he can keep stuffing his campaign account in the interim.

I am so disillusioned as a long time Democrat that he has yet to act on the issue that got him elected.

Healthcare, I am absolutely for the proposal, sight unseen even. But if you run around making headlines about fixing the system, FIX IT.

Rep. Fritchey, I don't know what issues may exist between you and the Governor and I don't care. You have been a leader on this issue for years and he should recognize it and be big enough to have you take the lead on it. There should be no room for pettiness here.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with 1:18. You need to get your priorities straight. Campaign Finance is important but not as important All Kids health insurance.

I dont recall any legislator willing to pass the govs proposal! In fact, all you did was throw it in a trash can.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:41 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Good to see the discussion here. The posts about this not being a choice between the two are entirely correct. The point I'm trying to make is that All Kids shows a marked ability to get something done quickly when they want to. I'd like to see that commitment on the reform issue as well.

And for the record, I threw nothing in the trash. I crumpled the press release and gave it back to a reporter. If you can't understand the collective frustration in seeing a press release instead of a bill two months after an announcemnt knowing that time was short, then you are missing something.

I still think that there are provisions in the Governor's bill that may not, and should not, get passed.

In the meantime, HB4073 would fly out of both chambers and could easily be done during Veto Session.

I'm not saying to pass this bill because it is in my best interests. I'm saying to pass this and other reforms because it is in his best interests and in the best interests of the people of this State.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: 1:29

As the previous poster that you speak of. You say "this should NOT be a discussion of either /or".

I agree, it should be a discussion of what comes first, of what is most important. I too am a life long Democrat and this All Kids proposal is what me and many other Deomcrats have been waiting for all of our Democrat lives.

Governor Blagojevich and our Legislative leaders are taking the lead on health care, the most important issue of our time, not only for our state but for the nation.

As far as you telling me or anyone what we should be discussing, well lets just say my resopnse to that would not be appropriate for this forum.

At October 13, 2005 at 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion, John, but I dont know how you can put campaign finance reform on the same level as health coverage for all children across the state. You make it seem as if Blago came up with this plan overnight, when in reality he has been adding kids to Kid Care each year in his busgets. It is just this year that the ability to extend this coverage to all kids has come within his reach. This isnt a fight he is gearing up for just over the veto session -- this has been going on since he was elected. He has always focused on providing access to health care for this state's most vulnerable citizens.

I would much rather be remembered as the Governor who provided health care to all than the governor who made it illegal for a person to contribute more than $2000 to a politician's reelection campaign. Lets take a good look at what really matters in real people's lives. Affordable health care will help the sick child -- campaign finance reform wont help treat the sick child.

The choice seems simple.

At October 13, 2005 at 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason All Kids is looking like a sure thing is because it has the support of the Speaker and President.

All the responsability should not be on the governor for this issue. He tried to take the lead. If the Speaker and President wanted campaign finance then they could push it through. What about Cross and Watson?

Face it. No politician wants reform.

At October 13, 2005 at 2:08 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

1:56 and the others:

I am NOT putting them on the same level.

First off, I am saying that the reform stuff should have been done months, if not years, ago.

Secondly, I believe that there is ample time to at least do HB4073 during veto session. It is not a complicated bill, and furthermore, it is not as if nothing else is going to be done while All Kids is advanced.

My point is a simple one. If they are serious about moving the reform stuff it is a relatively easy thing to do. I'm tired of people getting mileage out of the issue and not moving on it. And that is not a shot at the Governor. It's been that way since I've been a legislator, and for decades before that. Let's just do it already, work under a cleaner system, and move forward. Good government is not rocket science.

One more time though - I am not saying that it is as important as healthcare. But it is also not about what comes first. Do them both. Now.

At October 13, 2005 at 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:02, the Governor got the Speaker and President on board All Kids without having a bill. So he has shown that he is able to do this when he wants. But you are right, reform bills can't happen without the three of them, so if it doesn't happen, they all deserve the blame.

At October 13, 2005 at 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Rep. Fritchey. I agree that this should not be an "either or" proposition. I don't see anything in the Constitution or the rules of the General Assembly that preclude moving on two issues versus one only. HB 4073 is not new and certainly could be passed in veto session.

The General Assembly debates many bills simultaneously, even during veto session. Have All Kids go first, but that doesn't mean you have to pass on HB 4073 during veto session. First priority does not mean only priority.

In terms of support in the General Assembly, the Governor led on the ethics bill. The speaker and the president were not and are not leaders on that issue. That did not stop the Governor then and it shouldn't stop him now.

At October 13, 2005 at 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read an article written by Bernie Shoenburg its like reading an article written by Carl Rove or Tom Delay, very partisan and writen to put Democrats in a poor light.

At October 13, 2005 at 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that a lot of people are confusing the issue, intentionally or otherwise.

There is NO reason that both bills can't be moved at the same time.

The Governor is right to want to insure all kids.

Rep. Fritchey is right that the reform items are LONG overdue.

The other posters are right that there is no reason that both of these bills can't be done in veto. Unless the powers that be don't want them both done.

At October 13, 2005 at 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are we only talking about kids? What about the disabled and eldery that are falling through the medicaid / medicare cracks? And people on COBRA that is about to run out? Don't these people deserve the help of Illinois as well?

Don't get me wrong - I am all for covering children. Illinois is setting a wonderful example for the rest of the country. I hope uninsured children from all over move to Illinois to take advantage of this, especially the truly needy - the ones that need long term hospital care, organ transplants, etc.

It is the ethical thing to do. But there are so many more people we need to help as well. To leave them out in the cold is just not right.

At October 14, 2005 at 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post John. There is no reason to say that reform can't be done because of All Kids. The Governor has now clearly shown that he is capable of trying to move something forward if he wants to. Let's see how he really feels about reform.

At October 14, 2005 at 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If campaign finance reform was seen as a priority or political necessity by Rod, Mike or Emil, it would have been done by now. What we are seeing now is simply a replay of the past. Make noise about the issue, then do nothing.


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