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Changing Illinois: The Four Tops And Their Money

By CHANGE Illinois!

The CHANGE Illinois! coalition on Wednesday called on legislators to enact meaningful limits on campaign contributions from everyone, including political action committees controlled by the four legislative leaders.

"Illinois' wide open campaign finance system allows large contributors to drown out the voices of everyday Illinoisans and is part of the reason Illinois has a much deserved reputation for corruption in government," said Peter Bensinger, former Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "With one former governor in federal prison and another facing an array of deplorable charges, voters are fed up and weary of the foot-dragging in the General Assembly.

"We call on legislators to enact meaningful reform," he continued. "Limits must be set on how much money the four legislative leaders can collect and pass on to candidates of their choice. These war chests subvert the will of individual voters. Without limits on transfers, Illinois won't have real reform."

The top priority of members of CHANGE Illinois! is the establishment of campaign contribution limits similar to the federal system with a $2,400 limit on contributions by individuals, $5,000 limit on contributions by political action committees, and a maximum $30,000 limit on transfers from legislative leadership committees to legislative candidates. The CHANGE Illinois! proposal is nearly identical to the proposal advocated by the Illinois Reform Commission, an independent group created by Gov. Pat Quinn and chaired by Patrick Collins, a former federal prosecutor.

At a press conference Wednesday, Collins and other IRC members joined with CHANGE Illinois! in an urgent call for General Assembly approval of meaningful campaign contribution limits, and leaders of CHANGE Illinois! commended Collins and the IRC for its efforts on behalf of reform.

"With less than two weeks left in the spring legislative session, there has been some talk about limiting campaign contributions, but there hasn't been any action," said Deborah Harrington, President of the Woods Fund of Chicago and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "There have been discussions in committee rooms and hallways, but it is not clear whether legislators will even take a vote on this important reform."

"Illinois is in the spotlight, and the world is watching to see whether we will change the rules that have contributed to the corruption that has embarrassed this state," said George Ranney, President and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020 and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "Comprehensive limits on contributions, combined with more frequent public reporting of contributions and strengthened oversight of campaign finance laws, would put Illinois on the road to real reform."

Launched in late February, CHANGE Illinois! is a coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, inter-faith, non-profit and philanthropic organizations aligned to bring government integrity to Illinois.

A list of members and additional information is available at


Posted on May 21, 2009

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