While Illinois’ politicians struggle to balance budgets on every level, curiosity set in regarding campaign funding. Does it just become a big expense account. I’ve always wanted an expense account.
As a CPS teacher I was allowed $100 per year to purchase classroom materials. From conversations with colleagues, I know I was not the only one far exceeding this amount each year, out of my own paycheck. With elections drawing near, what will happen to those funds raised for individual candidate’s campaigns after Election Day?
Politicians’ Campaign Funds: Two Examples
While the current candidates have one month to go, I wouldn’t find answers for at least another month, but Mayor Daley’s decision not to run for Chicago’s mayor next year offered a variety of readily-available information on political figures and their money. Here are two examples.
Gery Chico, Chicago City Colleges Board President, has no money to use in his campaign for mayor. Why? Before learning of Mayor Daley’s decision to retire, Chico’s $35,000 remaining from his 2004 US Senate bid was given to charity reports Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun Times. He told Sneed even if Daley’s announcement came before he donated the money, he would have still given it away. While there’s no way to know for sure, Chico did use his $300 monthly salary when he served as Chicago Park District’s Board President to buy park district uniforms and equipment.
Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun Times columnist, reports Rahm Emanuel has $1.2 million in funds to use if he decides to join the race for Chicago’s mayor, which he’s expected to do in November. Nice to know at least two Illinois politicians are currently free and clear of campaign funds scandal.
Both of these examples help me form an opinion about of each of the candidates. Gery Chico’s decision to give his leftovers to charity leads me to believe he’s invested in Chicago on a personal level. His actions demonstrate he cares about the people and takes his civic responsibility seriously. He’s the kind of neighbor I would want; I bet his snow is always shoveled and his neighbors all call him by his first name.
While Emanuel’s campaign savings don’t tell me the same things as Chico’s donation, the decision to hold the money doesn’t speak negatively about him either. By saving, Emanuel demonstrates caution as well as the ability to save for a rainy day and/or plan for the future.
Considering the law regarding candidate’s spending of money raised, both Chico and Emanuel deserve a pat on the back or high five.
Illinois Campaign Funds: Laws & Regulations
Welcome to the Land of Temptation. When it comes to the law regarding campaign funds, Illinois may as well be the Wild West and every campaign takes place at high noon.
According to Illinois Politics: A Citizen’s Guide, “Illinois places no limits on who can contribute, how much they can contribute, or to whom they can contribute.” While most states and the federal government have laws prohibiting contributions from businesses, corporations, and unions acting as corporate entities, Illinois doesn’t have a problem with accepting money from these groups. Most states and the federal government also have limits on the amount individuals are allowed to contribute to a campaign and the ability to “blacklist” those with a conflict of interest, but Illinois doesn’t partake in this practice either.
When it comes to campaign funding, Illinois’ laws regarding campaign funds are some of the least restrictive in the country. Basically, politicians are allowed to use the money on whatever they want except for what would personally benefit the candidate financially.
As for changing this practice, Illinois law is slow to catch up to the majority of the nation. In 2008, a law barring individuals and companies holding governmental contracts of $50,000 or more from making campaign contributions to contract holders was established. This was the first significant change in the law regarding campaign funds in ten years.
So, if I understand this correctly, politicians control the laws dictating their own funding. Huh?
Can we blame them for not taking more action in changing laws regarding “free money”? Chicago, as well as the entire state of Illinois, have been the butt of corruption jokes for years because self-regulation takes the strength in character nearly extinct in today’s society.
When contemplating why Illinois politicians continue to shame us I think of the 90’s satirical movie, Heathers. When Winona Rider’s character asks clique leader Heather, “Why are you such a mega-b*%$#?” Without hesitation Heather simply explains, “Because I can be.”
Nowlan, James D., Samuel K. Gove, and Richard J. Winkel Jr. (2010). Illinois Politics: A Citizen’s Guide
Sneed, Michael. (2010, September 22). Starting Over, Chicago Sun Times, p 4.
Sweet, Lynn. (2010, September 23). All Signs Point to Emanuel Jumping in Chicago Mayoral Race. Retrieved September 24, 2010 from http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/09/all_signs_point_to_rahm_emanue.html