100 Days Without Rod Blagojevich

by , posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

100 Days of Reform

Because Rod Blagojevich is still looking for a post-political TV gig, the title of this blog post should probably be 100 days of reform and leadership under Governor Pat Quinn. 

Following the attempted sale of Barack Obama’s Senate seat and the subsequent removal of pay-to-play Rod, Illinois voters have had a taste of democracy under Pat Quinn.  You all weighed in on Blagojevich and you deserve an opportunity to weigh in on the Quinn reform agenda.

We have had more progress under Governor Pat Quinn than we did under both of his predecessors who are, or will be in jail.  We will use the space below to highlight Quinn’s 108 days of success, make a case for keeping Governor Pat Quinn and encourage Speaker Madigan to get behind Quinn’s reform agenda.

Sworn in on January 29, 2009, Governor Quinn has officially been in office 108 days as of this posting. He successfully passed a $3 billion mini-capital bill, launched the reform commission, replaced Blagojevich appointees, opened state parks and historic sites, implemented cost-cutting measures, moved into and “greened” the Governor’s Mansion, shored up programs for Illinois military families, signed a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures and effectively responded to the swine flu outbreak in Illinois.

Quinn has also maximized opportunities for Illinois to use stimulus funds; creating jobs and making Illinois green.  Illinois was the first state to sign a memorandum of understanding for high-speed rail. You can read a recap of Quinn’s 100-day report here.

If you are not familiar with Illinois politics, it should come as no surprise that former Governor Blagojevich and House Speaker Madigan (D) spent the past several years locked in a stalemate over the capital bill and budget, keeping the General Assembly in overtime session at the expense of the taxpayers.

Over the next 15 days, Governor Quinn’s challenge will be to pass a budget, pass a $26 billion Capital Bill that would support 340,000 jobs, and get significant reform measures through the Illinois General Assembly. 

The budget and capital bill are more likely to succeed than the campaign finance reform measures that would end the pay-to-play system that Blagojevich manipulated so well.

In his first official act as Governor, Pat Quinn signed an executive order establishing the Illinois Reform Commission. The commission, headed by former U.S. Attorney Pat Collins released a 100-day report on April 27.  The report is expected to serve as a blue print for much-needed reforms.  The commission has an official website. Quinn’s reform commission proposed everything from leadership term limits and ending gerrymandering to making the Illinois General Assembly caucus meetings subject to the open meetings act.  Quinn also wants to remove exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act and give the Attorney General and the Illinois State Police the power to independently investigate public corruption.  The most significant reform however, is campaign finance reform, which I wanted to delve into a bit deeper.   

Details of the Campaign Finance Reform Proposal:

The Quinn plan calls for campaign finance limits and more stringent reporting requirements. Currently, Illinois has no campaign funding limits and Governor Rod Blagojevich, Republican leaders and Democratic leaders are well known for accepting individual, corporate and PAC contributions in the amount of $25,000 or $50,000.  Blagojevich got caught for rewarding large contributors with state jobs or contracts. 

If the House and Senate pass Quinn’s reform measures, contributions would be limited to $2,400 per individual and $5,000 per Political Action Committee (PAC).  Registered lobbyists and business that contract with the state would be banned from contributing. Furthermore, candidates running for state office would have to report contributions of a $1,000 or more within five days. 

If lawmakers are serious about campaign finance reform, campaign finance reform is probably the only thing that would serve as a game-changer.  Unfortunately, House Speaker Madigan has not lifted a finger to implement these measures and Senate President John Cullerton is trying to raise the contribution ceiling to $10,000. 

What Will It Take To Get Reform?

Quinn outlined a comprehensive reform plan and now the responsibility for reform rests squarely on House Speaker Madigan (D) and Senate President Cullerton’s (D) shoulders.

Hesitant to pass real reform measures, Madigan felt the need to respond to Quinn’s call for reform by proposing that Quinn fire 3,000 state employees who were hired under former Governors Blagojevich and Ryan.

The choice to divert from real reform policy and escalate the political rhetoric just 25 days before the passage of Illinois budget and much-needed capital bill was a risky one by Madigan.  Furthermore, Madigan’s call to blindly dump 3,000 employees would be irresponsible and hasty compared to Quinn’s careful, methodical approach to cleaning house. 

Quinn has already replaced numerous Blagojevich appointments and continues to clean house.  He is building a team that is qualified, experienced and honest.  

What Can We Do to Support a Reform Agenda?

It seems that everyone goes to Springfield or Washington with good intentions, but it does not take long before campaign promises are broken and hope is swallowed by a powerful, broken system. 

This is not the case with Governor Quinn.  For the first time, someone is saying what needs to be said and pushing for reform that we need. This is not political posturing.  Throughout Quinn’s political career, he has defined himself as a reformer. It is such a powerful message that all major media outlets in Illinois are endorsing Quinn’s reform plan. 

Chicago Daily Herald, May 11, 2009 – Fed up with graft? You’re obligated to weigh in

Chicago Daily Herald, May 11, 2009 – How to contact your lawmakers

Chicago Sun-Times, May 6, 2009 – Give your Illinois legislators an earful on ethics reform

Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2009 – Give lawmakers your ultimatum. And do it now. 

So, the first action you can take (if you live in Illinois) is to contact your lawmaker and tell her or him to support Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign finance reforms that limit contributions and ultimately put an end to the pay-to-play system in Springfield.  If that representative does not support the campaign finance reform measure, quit voting him or her in.  Really, what is the point?  You can find your representative here

The second action we can all take is chip in and contribute to Governor Quinn.

Several progressive activists here in the Fox Valley have decided that Pat Quinn’s re-election is the most important election to work for during the 2010 cycle.  We decided to host a small-dollar fundraiser at the Historic Marvel Davis Farm on June 20th.  All are invited to attend and enjoy great music, good food and the sweet smell of reform for an affordable price!  Details can be found here.


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