While Illinois legislators took action against the state’s “pay to play” reputation, Gov. Rod Blagojevich took donation after donation from people who stood to gain financially from his administration.
While Illinois legislators took action against the state’s "pay to play" reputation, Gov. Rod Blagojevich took donation after donation from people who stood to gain financially from his administration.
During the first half of the year, Blagojevich accepted tens of thousands of dollars from people and businesses who had contracts worth at least $50,000 with state agencies — a practice that would be banned by legislation awaiting either his signature or veto.
In a review of new campaign finance records Tuesday, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform found that $238,000 of the Democratic governor’s donations would be barred under the legislation on his desk. That’s about $1 in every $5 that Blagojevich raised from sources other than political action committees.
For instance, a business called Entran gave Blagojevich $13,750. It has about $1.5 million worth of contracts with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Lin Engineering, with about $675,000 in IDOT contracts, gave him $8,500.
"There’s a lot of money here that he wouldn’t be allowed to take if that became law," said David Morrison, assistant director of the Campaign for Political Reform.
Blagojevich has raised huge amounts of money since launching his first campaign for governor in 2001. Often, the checks were for $10,000, $50,000, even $100,000.
Although he promised to change from the way his predecessor, Republican George Ryan, did business, Blagojevich took money from people and companies that later wound up with state contracts.
Ryan is now in prison, thanks in part to illegally mingling political activity with government business. Meanwhile, all other statewide officials, along with Mayor Richard Daley, have voluntarily stopped taking money from government contractors.
They argued the practice created the perception that Illinois ran on a "pay to play" policy — that is, people had to donate money to decisionmakers before they could take part in government activities.
Earlier this year, Illinois legislators voted unanimously to impose the state’s first major restriction on money politicians can accept. It would bar anyone with a state contract worth $50,000 or more from contributing to the officeholder who awarded the contract, or in the case of existing contracts, to that officeholder’s opponent in an election year.
Blagojevich has suggested that he will use his veto powers to rewrite the measure and send it back to lawmakers.
His aides wouldn’t answer questions about the legislation Tuesday, beyond saying that it doesn’t go far enough.
"We are disappointed that legislators didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to pass real and comprehensive ethics reform," said spokesman Brian Williamsen.
Comptroller Dan Hynes accused Blagojevich of "hypocrisy" on the subject, arguing that even if Blagojevich truly wanted to improve the legislation, he could voluntarily stop accepting contractors’ donations.
Instead, Hynes said, it appears that Blagojevich wants to amend the ethics legislation and send it back to lawmakers in hopes that the revised version will die.
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