SPRINGFIELD — Republican lawmakers added to their pile of recently-filed ethics legislation Wednesday, promoting two bills aimed at limiting conflicts of interest on the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Sen. Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, unveiled Senate Bill 2300 during a Statehouse news conference. The measure would prohibit a member of the State Board of Elections from contributing to or being an officer of a state or federal political committee.
Per the bill, a member of the Board of Elections who serves as an officer of a political committee must resign from that committee within 30 days of their appointment confirmation in the Senate. It gives the same timeline to any current Board of Elections member who serves on such a committee.
“Under current state law, a person can serve as a member of the Illinois State Board of Elections while at the same time run a political action committee that benefits candidates. Not only is this allowed, it’s currently happening,” McConchie said. “Common sense would dictate that no member of the State Board of Elections should be allowed to fund a campaign while simultaneously presiding over and judging legal matters regarding that campaign.”
McConchie appeared to be referencing the actions of former Democratic Sen. Bill Haine. Last month WCIA-TV, in Champaign, reported that when Haine was appointed to the Board of Elections, he switched his campaign fund, which contained more than $280,000, to a political action committee.
Haine told the Capitol Fax blog he planned to give the money away over time to local charities, and possibly to his son’s Republican campaign for a local state’s attorney race. Capitol Fax also reported that the Board of Elections said the committee’s conversion was in line with board rules.
Rep. Tim Butler, who introduced a similar bill, House Bill 3963, said despite the situation’s legality, it’s a clear conflict of interest. His bill includes members and spouses and directs the member to dissolve any political committees before they are seated to the board.
"Closing this loophole and preventing other potential conflicts that could place a board member in an ethically questionable situation is common sense, good government, and we hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will help us advance this legislation," Butler, R-Springfield, said.
The lawmakers said they would like to pass the bills in veto session before it adjourns Thursday evening, but they were not optimistic that Democratic leadership would get behind the bills this week.
Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said ethics legislation could take longer to pass than there is time available in veto session.
“And I've made it very clear that we need to have comprehensive ethics legislation. We have three days here, so the likelihood is that we can get some beginnings of that. But the fact is, it's going to take a little longer than we have in three days where we need comprehensive reform,” Pritzker said. “We have got to fight the corruption and deception that's been going on among the legislators.”
While Republican lawmakers have called for the formation of a task force to study ethics reforms, Sen. Jason Barickman warned it would be unwise to let such a proposal get in the way of reforms that can easily be enacted now.
“This state and the General Assembly has a history of using task forces as nothing more than a mechanism to delay and defer, and distract the public from the reforms that are very real and able to be implemented now,” Barickman, R-Bloomington, said.
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