Is Play Time Over?
The Joyce Foundation commissioned a survey last month that highlights widespread disgust amongst state citizens with their political leaders in Springfield. A vast majority (78%) say that the state is on the wrong track, and for 81% of Illinoisans, trust in state government occurs only some of the time or not at all.
A majority (61%) believes that corruption is an "extreme" concern and express similar alarm about the role of money in the political process (54%). Similar numbers see Blagojevich's misdeeds as "common" among state lawmakers, with only 39% viewing these reported shenanigans as "unusual" or "extreme."
Two-thirds of those surveyed would like to see the creation of a new state agency to enforce campaign finance laws, and also to spend more tax dollars to keep money out of politics.
More than three-quarters of state residents would like to see bans on donations from corporations (78%) and labor unions (76%), while 74% support limits on individual donations, too. Seventy-one percent would go so far as to support publicly financed campaigns as a means of rooting out corruption.
There is a willingness to hold legislators accountable for these desired actions, as 89% suggest that their representatives' actions toward reducing the role of money in politics will determine their re-election prospects. In a related sense, state residents express low approval for the state legislature and are cynical about the prospects of passing the aforementioned reforms.
Without doubt, the stars seemed to have aligned for comprehensive reform in the Land of Lincoln. A true political maverick in Pat Quinn now occupies the Governor's Mansion. Previous Blagojevich enabler Emil Jones has retired from his post as Senate President. John Cullerton has taken his place, and the venerable Michael Madigan remains the Speaker of the House. Neither of them are reformers and both are beholden to the local Democratic machine in Chicago, but they will have a difficult time turning back the tidal wave of sentiments held by an electorate promising to hold them and their fellow legislators accountable come 2010.
Cindi Canary of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has long been a lonely voice in the face of a pay-to-play culture that has elevated the state to the laughingstock of the nation. This "wild west" environment may soon be tamed by the new sheriff in town. Through the determined voices of a relentless electorate, the citizens can collectively take their state back.