Chicago Sun-Times

No Mercy: Fix Illinois Politics Now

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December 14, 2008

CAROL MARIN cmarin@suntimes.com

No mercy. No, I'm not talking about fast-tracking Gov. Blagojevich for immediate impeachment. That's a no-brainer.

Not talking about the Supreme Court removing him because he's a lunatic who can't govern.

Or about keeping our previously-proven-corrupt governor, George Ryan in the federal slam.

No mercy means, forgive my shouting: MAKE IT ILLEGAL FOR ILLINOIS POLITICIANS TO COLLECT UNFETTERED BUCKETS OF CAMPAIGN CASH.

Barack Obama, who has blown the lid off any possibility any presidential candidate will ever again adhere to public financing limits, took a moment to sermonize about good people in politics at Thursday's news conference.

"One thing I want to make sure everybody is mindful of," he said. "There are extraordinary traditions of service coming out of Illinois . . . even after Abraham Lincoln. . . . But what you also have, I think, are habits and a culture that thinks of politics as, as a means of self-aggrandizement."

Obama certainly knows that's true given that he and Blagojevich and a legion of other pols shared a prodigious political fund-raiser named Tony Rezko, who now sits in a solitary federal prison cell because of the buckets of cash he gave away to buy power and influence and contracts from elected officials who were weak and willing. Obama wasn't one of them, but plenty of people around him all those years in Illinois don't share his sense of rectitude.

And while Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, in filing suit to remove Blagojevich, can argue that "his continued occupation of that office could irreparably damage the state' s interests," it's uncontrolled amounts of cash that will irreparably damage this state's interests long after Blagojevich is sent to bunk with Ryan.

Money governs in this state. Period.

How can you doubt it when for five long years the feds have been papering the governor and state government with subpoenas and have already charged 13 of Blagojevich's friends or associates, and yet companies and individuals have been showering Blagojevich with cash. All quite legal contributions. Below is just a short list of numbers that end in zeroes given by folks who, I guess, just didn't believe Blagojevich was anything but a good government guy:

Contributions or transfers to Friends of Blagojevich for filing period ending June 2008:

• • Americash Loans, $10,000

• • Dream World Inc., Niles, $50,000

• • Midwest Generation, $15,000

• • Nicor Gas, $10,000

• • Bhagavati Patel, $5,000

• • Timothy Rand, $20,000

• • Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc., $10,000

• • ComEd PAC, $10,000

• • Democratic Central Committee of Christian County, $25,000

• • Drive Committee (Washington D.C.), $50,000

• • IHA Political Action Committee, $30,000

• • Illinois Laborers' Legislative Committee (2 contributions total), $100,000

• • Illinois Pipe Trades PAC Account, $100,000

• • SEIU Local 880 PAC, $25,000

On Monday, both chambers of the General Assembly gather in Springfield to address this extraordinary crisis. But they won't fix our chronic corruption until they do something courageous about the cash.

Cindi Canary, head of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, beats the drum on her Web site: "The General Assembly must pass laws directly addressing the culture of politics that allows people like Rod Blagojevich to become political leaders. It is time for the General Assembly to pass tough new laws limiting the size of campaign contributions, banning contributions by corporations and unions, prohibiting large transfers of campaign cash by legislative leaders to candidates . . ."

Until we voters demand that it happen, it won't.

Until our leaders make it happen. Rod Blagojevich will go, but the next scandal is right around the corner.

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Pat Quinn has spent his entire career as a champion of ethics in public service, that includes campaign contributions

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This page contains a single entry by Carol Marin published on December 14, 2008 7:40 AM.

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