SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Another federal conviction for political corruption in Illinois, another call for tougher ethics laws.
A jury last week slapped convictions on four political insiders in a wide-ranging bribery case involving power giant ComEd’s bribery of the once-powerful speaker of the Ilinois House.
While a key House Democrat confirmed Tuesday that discussions about a package of ethical tune-ups were underway, former Gov. Pat Quinn, who has made a career of chasing government reform, delivered a letter to Democratic leaders seeking a special session to adopt more than a half-dozen reforms.
They include the long-sought but elusive proposals to allow taxpayers to put referendum questions on the ballot without legislative intervention — currently possible in 26 states — and to prohibit legislators from voting on issues in which they have a financial interest.
“It’s pretty clear from the testimony in the trial that jobs were being given out to friends of legislators. That’s a conflict of interest …,” Quinn said in a statehouse news conference. “If you’re a legislator, your ethical duty is to the voters and the people in your district, not to provide special benefits to you and your friends.”
The jury in the so-called ComEd 4 trial found that two former utility executives, a consultant and a longtime political insider arranged for contracts, jobs and money for associates of then-House Speaker Michael Madigan, among the most powerful of the nation’s legislative leaders, in exchange for favorable legislation.
Rep. Maurice West II, chairman of the House Ethics and Elections Committee, said his talks on a package are not directly connected to what is known as the ComEd 4 trial.
West credited a 2021 ethics package with nailing the illegal activity confirmed by the ComEd 4 verdict, although that investigation had begun years before. Critics, however, derided that law, driven by 2019 disclosures of legislators’ lobbying indiscretions and bribery, as insufficient.
“I really do feel it’s been effective,” countered West, adding that he plans to tighten up conflicting or confusing provisions in current law. “It’s time for us to look at what our laws can do in the here and now and beyond — and not look back.”
Among other provisions Quinn put in his letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch is an end to “double-dipping” by legislators on another public payroll besides the state’s. Quinn pushed for an end to double-dipping in one of his earliest reform campaigns in 1976.
He would also keep public officials convicted of corruption from receiving taxpayer-funded pensions, restrict campaign contributions from utilities and other monopolies, strengthen “revolving door” limits on legislators-turned-lobbyists and strengthen the maligned effectiveness of the Legislative Inspector General by providing the office with subpoena power.
Quinn, the state’s Democratic governor from 2009 to 2015, was elevated to the post from lieutenant governor when Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office for political corruption, which later landed him in federal prison.
Quinn, who also served as a one-term state treasurer, is best known outside of political office for leading the drive to reduce the size of the Illinois House in 1980 because of anger over a pay raise for the representatives.
West said he had not seen Quinn’s letter but was eager to consider the former governor’s proposals.
___ Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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May 9, 2023 at 06:45PM