The latest attempt to clean up some of the sleaze in Illinois politics appeared to be dead in Springfield Friday, a victim, once again, of political game-playing.
Then, Barack Obama, under pressure from Republicans to do something about corruption in his home state, issued a plea to his political mentor, Senate President Emil Jones, to pass something. Jones agreed, but Governor Blagojevich says that "something's" not enough, but some critics say his plan is simply more game-playing
"The one thing is a given, and that's that the law should be applied equally across the board to everybody," Blagojevich said.
The governor says it is not enough for lawmakers to simply put a limit on campaign contributions from state contractors because he has already done that by executive order. So, Blagojevich is proposing a more comprehensive ethics plan that would end the so-called "double-dipping" by lawmakers who have a second government job, stop the backdoor legislative pay raises that are recommended by a commission instead of voted on in Springfield, and require lawmakers who lobby on behalf of corporate clients to disclose the clients and the fees. That's a direct slap at Speaker Michael Madigan and state Rep. John Fritchey. The speaker's law firm handles corporate property tax appeals, and the governor says Fritchey did legal work for pay day loan clients.
" Across the board ethics reform so that the taxpayers can have a better bang for their buck," the governor said.
However, Fritchey was infuriated by the allegations. He says he never lobbied for pay day loan companies and that Blagojevich knows it.
"The governor has resorted to an all-new low, even for him. His allegations are pathetic and border on pathological," Fritchey said.
The head of an ethics watchdog group says the governor's plan is poorly drafted, of questionable legality, and too vindictive politically to pass the legislature, which is what Blagojevich apparently wants.
"This is all a charade. It can't pass, and it shouldn't pass. What we're confusing here is politics and public policy. This is politics," said Cindy Canary of Campaign for Political Reform.
"That's a baloney argument. This is a dishonest attempt by some to protect the buddy system in Springfield," Governor Blagojevich charged.
Blagojevich says the critics of his proposal don't want any reform in Illinois, but critics say it's the other way around. They say the governor is proposing a bill that will never pass so there won't be any reform.
Critics also say he can keep raising campaign cash from anyone and everyone to pay for a possible re-election campaign and mounting legal bills from multiple federal corruption investigations.
Blagojevich, by the way, is claiming, once again, that he has never done anything illegal or improper, even if some of his closest advisors cannot make the same claim.