Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Executive Decision - Updated

Every time that I think that I might be being overly critical of the Administration, something like yesterday happens.

No, I'm not talking about the Governor's press conference to bring us in for (another) special session in December to do nothing that couldn't be done in January.

I'm talking about yesterday's rendition of the Springfield Shuffle. As I have previously explained in a post about the games being played to prevent the passage of HB1, legislation aimed at ending pay-to-play politics in our state:
Those who pay attention to Springfield politics are well-versed in what should be known as the 'Springfield Shuffle', the art of trying to bottle up ethics legislation by saying something along the lines of 'it doesn't go far enough' or 'we don't have time to deal with it' or 'we have a better idea'.
Yesterday, Comptroller Dan Hynes unveiled Open Book, a website database that will allow the public (and press) to cross-check state contract holders with campaign contributors. It's an excellent idea that is being understandably well received and for which Dan gets mad props, um I mean, deserves a lot of credit.

BUT then, in keeping with Shuffle tradition, comes the following:
In response to Hynes’ statement that House Bill 1 could be the first step with more legislation following, (Blagojevich spokesperson Rebecca) Rausch said, “Why not do it right the first time? Why set the bar low? It’s taken many, many, many years to pass the first round of ethics reform in 2003. We shouldn’t squander the opportunity to do something sweeping and across the board now.”
For the life of me, I just don't get how somebody can make that statement with a straight face. Why set the bar low?! Are you kidding me? The bill could be a centerpiece of good p.r. for the Governor at a critically needed time, and more importantly, would be the most substantive item passed by the Administration this session. Why set the bar low?! Wow. (And I'm not even going to go into the whole 'rock the system' thing and all of the other reasons why HB1 should be JOB1.)

But at the same event, Kent Redfield, director of the Sunshine Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield, hit on something that I had been mulling over for some time now.
“The governor could do what the comptroller has done through executive order this afternoon. It should not be sufficient for the governor’s spokesman to say, ‘Well, we’re in favor of broad reform.’ These are the sorts of things that should be in law, that can be done by executive order.”
Redfield's statement provides a solution that can quickly satisfy a couple of issues at once - and quickly. Taking the Administration at its word - that HB1 is too narrow, that they want to end pay-to-play politics, but want to do more - it can put its (proverbial and literal) money where its mouth is.

Follow the lead of the every other Constitutional officer and issue an executive order banning campaign contributions from people holding state contracts that are worth more than some minimal threshold.

That way the Governor can demonstrate his commitment to campaign finance reform by leading by personal example and we won't have to let the pesky pay-to-play issue get in the way of even bigger reforms.

And it doesn't get much easier to do. He could borrow a copy of the Executive Order issued by any of the other office holders on the second floor of the Capitol. Plus, he doesn't even need the Legislature to do it.

All he has to do is sign it.

UPDATE - The Tribune editorial board comes out swinging (again) in support of HB1, and against the nonsense preventing its passage. Read the whole thing, but here's the punch line:
So what's going on in the Senate now? Jones argues it's all about noble intentions. So does Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

They say they don't want to settle for the House bill because they are cooking up a much better ethics bill.

Just wait and see.

We're waiting. The House voted in April. And what have we seen from the Senate? Nothing but the same excuses the Senate leaders were mouthing in August, the last time this page wrote about their failure to call a vote on the House ethics bill.

That's what they said in August. Wait! We have a better idea!

Many Democratic senators at this moment are doubtless printing up campaign fliers that boast they have sponsored ethics legislation. And those campaign fliers will be a crock.

Every Democratic senator should be asked two questions:

Why haven't you screamed for your leaders to call a vote on the ethics bills that passed the House 116-0?

Why are you protecting the Illinois culture of corruption?

Yep. But in the meantime - sign an Executive Order.

11 Comments:

At October 24, 2007 at 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He'll never do it Rep. Because if he did, he'd raise zero money. He is a product of tainted $$. Nobody contributes to this guy because they believe in him; it's more of an investment that pays taxpayer funded dividends.

Stay on him. You're on the side of the angels on this one. Too bad he doesn't get it.

(And why isn't the Trib giving you the credit on this thing? All of your colleagues have been 'moment of silence' quiet on the issue.)

 
At October 24, 2007 at 10:29 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

As you know, I'm all for HB1, but I have some questions. All are yes or no. This tougher ethics bill that Blago and Jones say is what they really want.

Has anyone introduced it in the House?

Does Mike Madigan support it?

If the answer to either of those questions is "no," does the Illinois House have a mechanism like the U.S. House where a representative can introduce the bill and then issue a discharge petition if it's bottled up (the vote on the discharge petition being public)?

In short, if the House wants to get outraged on ethics, there's an easy answer: call their bluff and save your state. Otherwise many of us take this as more of the campaign to elect Lisa Madigan governor than a principled fight on government ethics.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 11:20 AM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

LCD,

The answer to the first question is no. After more than two years of waiting, the supposed 'better, broader' bill doesn't exist anywhere but in press releases and as an excuse to prevent the passage of HB1.

As such, there is nothing that can be introduced in either chamber or for the Speaker to support or oppose. (Although it should be pointed out that the Speaker has been supportive of HB1.)

With respect to a discharge motion, that would have to be filed in the Senate.

But it would likely be a moot exercise as they have a draconian provision (as does the House) requiring unanimous consent for such a motion to prevail.) So if such a motion were made, one of Sen. Jones' leadership team would object, thus killing the motion. It's not right, not fair, but that's the reality of it.

I assure you that the supporters of HB1 are far more interested in fixing an inexcusable gap in our ethics laws than we are in influencing any future elections.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Open Book is a great idea, but wouldn't it be more appropriate for an organization to put it together -- rather than a state officeholder? I know that campaign records are filed with a state agency, but it seems a little odd that the Comptroller's office would have employees sifting through campaign records (which I know are on a state website) to update Open Book. Like I said, I appreciate the intent, but I wonder if it's something that state government should be responsible for putting forth -- it seems like government should be open in terms of where contracts, grants, etc. are going, but should the political contribution component be left to another entity to compile?

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:40 PM, Anonymous PL said...

John you guys are giving up to easy. Get one of your counterparts in the senate to file the discharge motion and get these Jones crony's on record as opposing it. Then file the motion again and agin at least we will have a paper trail and somebody beside king Emil to hold accountable for opposing it.

Yeah its uncomfortable to put your counterparts in the senate on record and you would probably burn some bridges but thats what you have to do if you want to go down the reform path.

HB1 proves politics as ausual gets nothing accomplished. Get outside your comfort zone.

Patrick

 
At October 24, 2007 at 12:46 PM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

Fair enough (though I don't accept the purity of motive for *all* of HB1's House supporters), but it seems like the House could draft something as close as possible to Jones' description of the bill he wants (I thought it existed and has been referred to by number -- in fact I thought that was in Carol Marin's column, but my geezer memory is failing), then invite him to tweak it any way he sees fit, then introduce it and pass it. If he rejects *that* or puts any blatant poison pills in, then the march on springfield can begin.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 12:20:

It makes sense for the comptroller to post this data because the comptroller's contract information is updated daily, making it very difficult for an outside group to manage. Campaign finance records are updated twice a year (plus additional filings around elections, but really twice a year), but contracts are initiated every day. And since these are all public records, it's fair for a government officer to make them available to the public in a user-friendly format.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick -

A discharge motion was filed by Sen. Radogno last May.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 9:09 PM, Anonymous DuPage Saint said...

You missed it and the Gov is doing it right before your eyes. They want to do something sweeping, and they are, sweeping right under the rug.

 
At October 24, 2007 at 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DuPage - that was funny!

 
At October 26, 2007 at 1:31 PM, Anonymous Truthful James said...

John,

I don't think that a "culture of corruption" really describes it. As we see the economy going into the tank, foreclosures and bankruptcies ans all, what surfaces is something worse than that.

It is no longer the rich versus the poor, although some elected officials seem to act that way, it is those who govern amd administer versud the governed.

The former are a protected class forever employed, with longevity raises and negotiated contract raises. In times of prosperity they go almost unnoticed. Efficiencies are not required.

When the economy goes south, so to speak, the ship of state sails on, piling up increased operational expenses and pension obligations.

The taxpayer, the resident, the small businessman is not so lucky. Their pot doesn't grow on a straight line path sloping upward.

Statistics may show that the economy is growing, but this macroeconomic fact is not relevant to struggles on the ground, day to day.

There appear to be no portholes on that ship of state or if there are few of the governing class are looking out. Public unions, teachers associations argue for more, regardless of what lies beneath them.

So here we are, John. Perhaps we should all work in the public sector, but from where would the innovation, the drive, the sweat equity which multiplies in the economy come?

 

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