Illinois’ ethics reform package draws scrutiny from Chicago alderman – Crain’s Chicago Business

In a statement, Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd, a former federal prosecutor who represents the Lincoln Park neighborhood and chairs the City Council Committee on Ethics and Oversight, says the new rules not only have holes in them, but are also less strict than the city’s rules.

For instance, while the new state rules allow Senate and House members to lobby local governments on behalf of paid clients so long as the governments involved are not simultaneously seeking favors from the state, Chicago adopted new rules a couple of years ago that ban any elected city official from any private lobbying and prevent elected officials from another jurisdiction from lobbying in Chicago.

The state law also allows lawmakers to lobby their own unit of government so long as the work is limited to “occasional communications with an official of a unit of local government” on behalf of their nongovernment employer, and they make no reportable expenditures. Chicago’s law flat-out prohibits this.

Chicago also has a one-year ban on ex-aldermen from lobbying in the city, and a two-year ban on former mayoral aides from doing so. But the new state revolving door ban only applies for six months.

In addition, Chicago’s inspector general has full powers to probe aldermen and is empowered to receive and act on anonymous complaints. “We encourage the State to adopt these standards as well,” Smith dryly commented.

Smith’s critique echoes one that came from statewide reform groups shortly after the new rules were adopted. But still, the notion that the “ethics committee” chair of a body that has seen dozens of federal corruption prosecutions in recent decades will raise some eyebrows.

In a follow-up interview, Smith stuck to her guns.

“I’m sorry. I can’t live in that time. I live in my time,” Smith said, referring to those past prosecutions. “I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. Our lobbying ban, if not the strongest in the country, is close.”

Smith said she felt the need to comment because, at one point, the pending state law would have over-ruled Chicago’s tighter rules. After some unpaid lobbying of her own, Smith said that provision was omitted. “I’m glad they left us out.”

I asked spokespeople for Senate President Don Harmon, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Gov. J.B. Pritzker if they’d care to comment. No response so far.


via “Illinois Politics” – Google News

June 2, 2021 at 04:24PM

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