Friday, January 30, 2009

ICPR Statement: Time to Get to Work

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform released this statement on the future of Illinois politics:

Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office. Now, the real work can begin.

The waning days of the Blagojevich Administration became a circus, with a one-man carnival-barker/freak show in the center ring. But until the political system that allowed someone like that to assume the duties of governor is changed, the Era of Corruption will continue.

Rod Blagojevich was hardly an outlier in the state's list of governors. Three of his seven predecessors went to jail, and if he is convicted of the federal corruption charges now lodged against him, then Jon Stewart's observation -- that you are more likely to go to jail if you become governor of Illinois than if you commit murder -- will be proven true.

We welcome Governor Pat Quinn. Perhaps it is no coincidence that he has both a reputation for standing up to established power and a dismal record as a campaign fundraiser. But we also recognize that installing Pat Quinn will not end corruption in Illinois government. We have turned governors out of office before, only to wind up, again and again, right back at square one. Problems with any one officeholder are just symptoms of a much larger problem with our culture of politics.

Illinois' political culture is too loose to resist the next thuggish strongman who will exploit its weaknesses. Illinois provides its citizens with far too little information about the personal financial interests of public officials, about the activities of lobbyists, about the day-to-day operation of government. Our campaign laws make it far too easy for the entrenched to monopolize power, to limit ballot access, and to leverage incumbency into campaign resources.

This is not news. The problems we face are well known and well documented, as are the solutions. What is needed now is not recognition but resolution, not further deliberation but deliberate action. The new Governor and the General Assembly should enact limits on campaign contributions and bring Illinois in line with nearly all other states and the federal system. We've seen what happens when special interests can give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns; let's see how elections in Illinois work when held to the same standards that prevail in most other states. Gov. Quinn and the members of the House and Senate should come to terms on a system of public financing, to let candidates run for office without having to kowtow to the small group of people who now control the purse strings.

It's past time to improve the culture of politics in Illinois. We know what we need to do. Now we must do it.

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