Take a Bite Out of Corruption
Simpson highlighted historic corruption in the state, county, and city, and introduced the second of two studies on the subject, this one titled "The Depth of Corruption in Illinois." Chase covered former Governor Rod Blagojevich for six years and recounted the series of events that lead to his impeachment and removal from office (read his political obituary for Blagojevich here), but also pointed to the fact that he is merely symptomatic of the corrupt politics that pervade the state.
Pastika referenced a March report that her organization compiled, titled the Midwest Open Government Project. It focuses specifically on the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts in select states, including Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Illinois ranks poorly on both counts, and Pastika recommends pursuit of the related measures embedded in the Illinois Reform Commission's 100 Day Report.
Canary testified before the so-called Quinn Commission on February 23 and stands as a leading voice in favor of comprehensive campaign finance reform in the state. Calling Illinois "the Wild West of political ethics and campaign finance practices," Canary is pushing for contribution limits, more transparency, and a transition toward public financing of campaigns.
Several of the 60 audience members in attendance asked how they could take part in the process of pushing for wholesale changes to the way the State of Illinois conducts business. Canary said we should call or write our state legislators (the ICPR has the tools on its web site) and pressure them to consider the various elements of the Quinn Commission Report. Given the dearth of citizen response, a dozen or so letters can spur action, according to Canary. Pastika and Chase both stressed the power of letters to the editor of local newspapers, and Simpson asked us to take one step further. Organize large groups of people, he suggests, and travel to Springfield to interact face-to-face with our elected officials.
The window of opportunity may be closing as the spring legislative session comes to a close at the end of May. There are indications that some of the recommended reforms are already being cast aside, and that reform-related legislation is being drafted and debated behind closed doors. Our panelists unanimously agreed that the time for citizens of the state to act is now.
Click here to read the Midwest Democracy Network's coverage of the program.