Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ban on Gaming Donations a Tough Sell ; Loopholes Abound in Illinois Campaign Law

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ban on Gaming Donations a Tough Sell ; Loopholes Abound in Illinois Campaign Law

Article excerpt

CHICAGO - When Gov. Pat Quinn shot down a plan to boost gambling in the state, he called for more ethical safeguards and conjured up cautionary images of mobsters infiltrating Illinois casinos. But his top suggestion to fix the proposal - banning political contributions from the gambling industry - would likely face a difficult road in a state with some of the most lax campaign finance laws nationwide, if Quinn really pushes for it and any lawmaker would sponsor such a reform in the General Assembly.

Many question if Quinn truly was motivated by the ethics and oversight concerns, or if he simply would never support the plan to establish five new casinos and slot machines at racetracks. Some of the plan's supporters question if aiming a contributions ban at one industry would be fair or constitutional. And Quinn could anticipate stiff resistance among lawmakers to doing away with such a source of cash.

Just ask Maryland.

The governor there proposed strict limits on donations from casino owners and some employees as part of a gambling expansion. But the proposal was pummeled by lawmakers until they ended up with what supporters say is a watered-down version that became law this year.

"What they did was take a very comprehensive bill and they (put) a big doughnut hole in it," said Delegate Luiz Simmons, a Maryland Democrat who has pushed gambling reforms.

"It probably is almost moot."

The gambling industry - including casinos, racing parks and horsemen associations - has contributed nearly $10 million to Illinois politicians over the past decade, according to an analysis by good-government group Common Cause.

First on a list of lawmakers receiving contributions was House Minority Leader Tom Cross, a Republican who received more than $530,000 from 2002 through 2012. Fourth was the sponsor of the vetoed gambling legislation, Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat who received over $310,000. Another bill sponsor, state Sen. Terry Link, also a Democrat, was much farther down at No. 14 with nearly $59,000.

Quinn received more than $46,000, according to the group.

Rey Lopez-Calderon, the executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said lawmakers should focus on ethical protections in gambling because of the industry's historic ties to organized crime and the state's reputation for rampant political corruption. …

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