On His Heels, Governor Deals Campaign Fix His Plan Bans Corporate, Union Donations

By Krol, Eric; Patterson, John | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

On His Heels, Governor Deals Campaign Fix His Plan Bans Corporate, Union Donations


Krol, Eric, Patterson, John, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Eric Krol and John Patterson Daily Herald Staff Writers

Reeling from months of disclosures that he was doling out state contracts and appointments to his campaign contributors, Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed a far-reaching set of campaign finance reforms Wednesday that would ban contributions from corporations and unions and set limits on contributions for the first time.

The plan immediately garnered a positive review from the state's leading campaign reform group but barbed criticism from lawmakers of both parties who claimed Blagojevich, the most prolific fund- raiser in the state's history, is trying to shut down a system that's given him a huge financial advantage.

"I think it's very foolish," said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat. "Where's it coming from? If they're to cover it up, it's a terrible way of doing it."

Republican state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan of Des Plaines was even more direct.

"If (Blagojevich) thinks introducing this is going to absolve him of all the things that have been happening, he's got another thing coming," she said.

Ethics questions have dogged the governor's administration for much of the past year. Blagojevich's reform plan comes 10 days after the Daily Herald report, "Broken Pledges," showed the governor has taken $7.34 million in campaign contributions from those he's awarded state contracts and appointments despite running on an oft-repeated pledge to end "business as usual." That total is nearly one in every five dollars Blagojevich raised since 2000.

The proposal also comes with little more than two weeks left before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn and more than two months after the governor promised to "rock the system in Springfield" with a reform proposal. Even Blagojevich aides acknowledged the governor's plan likely would take longer to win approval.

The governor, who holds news conferences to trumpet even small initiatives, unveiled his campaign finance reform proposal by simply issuing a news release. He took no questions and allowed surrogates to rebut criticisms.

"It's not damage control," said state Sen. Carol Ronen of Chicago, who is sponsoring Blagojevich's plan. "I think that's a cynical way of looking at it. This says he's putting his money where his mouth is."

Specifically, the governor's measure would stop companies and unions from directly contributing to candidates, a practice that has been banned in federal races for more than a half-century.

Individuals would be limited to $2,000 donations to candidates and $40,000 in total contributions per election. There are no current limits in Illinois, which long has been dubbed the "wild west" by reformers. …

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