Quinn vetoes campaign finance bill

August 27, 2009 4:49:06 PM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a campaign finance bill he once praised.The action comes after mounting criticism that the bill is riddled with loopholes.

Quinn was joined at a news conference on Thursday by some top legislative leaders.

The bill the governor vetoed would have provided the first ever limits on campaign contributions in Illinois.

It was not unusual to hear Governor Pat Quinn change his position on a major issue. But it was surprising to see Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and State Senate President John Cullerton flip flop. They were the ones who pushed the campaign finance reform bill through their respective chambers three months ago.

"We asked the governor to veto this bill. We asked him. The sponsors of the bill asked him to veto it," said State Sen. John Cullerton, (D) senate president.

So Governor Quinn, who praised the bill in may calling it 'landmark legislation,' reversed himself with an emphatic veto 89 days later. The governor explained that his change of heart happened after hearing public dissatisfaction with the bill.

"Many, many people felt we should go back to the drawing board with some core principles in mind," said Quinn.

Reform advocates and Republican leaders lobbied for the veto. They say the reform bill, while setting limits on the amounts people and companies could donate to individual lawmakers, had too many loopholes that could fatten the political war chests and power of legislative leaders and incumbents.

"There was tremendous pressure on the governor to go ahead and enact a bill which really would have maintained the status quo or even made it worse," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate Minority Leader.

"We think its a major step in the right direction," said George Ranney, Change Illinois.

In an awkward moment, Madigan, the longtime House speaker who sponsored the bill last spring, deferred to others in the room to discuss what provisions a replacement campaign reform bill might include.

"As I have explained, I relied upon the senator. That's the end of my response," said State Rep. Michael Madigan, (D) House Speaker.

On Wednesday, Quinn backed off his threat to fire two University of Illinois trustees who refused the governor's request that they resign.

Last month, he signed a capital budget without an operating budget in place after vowing never to do so. What's more, the capital bill is financed in part by an expansion of gambling that late last year Quinn said he opposed. Within days, he changed positions on teacher pension reform and championed at least two different income tax increase bills at the same time.

"You never know where he stands from day to day, hour to hour. And I think that's what really is most disappointing is his lack of leadership and consistency," said Comptroller Dan Hynes, (D) candidate for governor.

"People are very happy with my leadership. It's steady leadership that's getting things done for ordinary people," said Quinn.

Reform advocate Cyndi Canary spoke up for the governor, actually praising Quinn for not seeming to have a firm position on much.

"What could be braver than listening to the people coming to the table and saying, we hear you, we're going to try to do this differently," said Cindi Canary, Illinois Campaign For Political Reform.

The lawmakers say they'll start from scratch and the majority democrats promise to include Republicans in the bill's re-write. Quinn, whose refusal to sign what was passed and praised last spring precipitated the news conference, was unapologetic about his latest switcheroo.

"I think the ultimate test of any governor is the outcomes. Are we coming out with good outcomes that benefit the common good and the public interest?" said Quinn.

Legislative leaders hope to have a new bill for consideration by the October veto session. Reform advocates will also be involved in that rewrite.


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