Awaiting Campaign Finance Reform Lawmakers Question Governor's Tardiness

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Byline: Mike Riopell Daily Herald Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD - In early March, Gov. Rod Blagojevich vowed to "rock the system in Springfield" with a campaign finance reform plan he said would "completely change the way campaigns are funded at the state level."

Two months later, the absence of an actual plan from the governor is keeping a band of other reformers from doing their own rocking.

"I'd love to move forward," said state Sen. Miguel del Valle, a Chicago Democrat whose own stalled plan would prohibit statewide officials, like the governor, from accepting campaign contributions from anyone holding state contracts through their offices.

There's little reason to push reform that the governor must eventually sign if he has his own, possibly conflicting, ideas, said Kent Redfield, a political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield who researches state politics and campaigns.

"If you're going to vote for change in the system, you don't want to spend a lot of time and energy on something the governor's going to veto," Redfield said.

But as lawmakers await the governor's plan, criticism continues to mount about Blagojevich's campaign contributions. A Daily Herald analysis published Sunday showed that Blagojevich has collected $7.34 million in campaign contributions from firms with special state contracts and from people or associates of those he's appointed to state boards and commissions. That represents nearly one in five campaign dollars Blagojevich has collected since he began setting up a run for governor in 2000.

Good-government groups question how Blagojevich is living up to his pledge to change business as usual with that kind of political fund-raising.

Blagojevich aides point to the governor's changes in ethics and purchasing as proof he's committed to reform. As for when the governor's campaign finance plan is coming, Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said "soon. …