SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.
That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.
Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.
“Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.
Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.
“These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.
Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.
“I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.
Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.
Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.
Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when they bill becomes law.
VILLA PARK- DuPage County will now be able to honor a series of voter referendums from the November 2016 election.
Villa Park Democrat State Senator Tom Cullerton’s law to correct a mistake made by the DuPage County Election Commission last fall was signed into law today.
“The referendums passed with overwhelming support,” Cullerton said. “This is a small step to guarantee the will of the people is the law of the land.”
State law currently requires notice to be published no more than 30 days and not less than 10 days before an election. However, the notice was published in the local papers 33 days in advance due to a clerical error made by the election commission.
“This is a one-time deal to avoid costly litigation,” Cullerton said. “Voters voiced their opinions in good faith, now it is time to abide by their wishes.”
This law is a one-time correction that only applies to DuPage County for the November 2016 elections.
Senate Bill 3319 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support.
SPRINGFIELD – The only way to blunt the influence that wealthy donors maintain over government is to return power to the people by amplifying the voice of small donors through public financing of elections, Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.
Biss, an Evanston Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1424, which creates the Small Donor Democracy Matching System for Fair Elections Act.
The legislation would establish a small donor matching system for statewide races in Illinois, including governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senators and state representatives.
Small donor matching empowers average people to compete financially and ideologically with special interests and wealthy donors. It also opens up the playing field to more diverse candidates for office and offers more options at the ballot box.
“This is about who decides,” Biss said. “Life is getting harder for more and more Americans every day because people who are already doing well have all the power in government – powerful people who are shamefully out of touch with the people they represent.
“We’re only going to fix this problem if we weaken the connection between money and political power and make it easier for small donors’ voices to be heard.”
Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence the money in Illinois elections by doing the following:
The cost of the program is estimated at $1 per Illinois resident annually, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the proposal.
“It’s time for Illinois to step up to the plate and implement this long-overdue reform, which would ensure that the voices of local donors are amplified in Illinois elections,” David Melton, ICPR senior advisor said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to run for office and participate in the political process, not just the 1 percent of wealthy donors and candidates.”
Jay Young, political director for Common Cause Illinois, noted that Illinois witnessed unprecedented campaign spending in 2016, including nine statehouse races that exceeded $2 million in contributions and a comptroller’s race that soared past the $12 million mark.
“The voices of ordinary citizens in this state are being drowned out right now by the unlimited spending of wealthy political donors,” Young said. “We believe that proposals like the one Senator Biss has put forward will allow the people to take back their democracy from these powerful special interest groups.”
SPRINGFIELD- To protect Illinois’ democratic values, State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) introduced legislation to revive the investigation on Russia’s deliberate interference in America’s presidential elections.
Hastings introduced Senate Resolution 94 urging the federal government to complete their investigation and inform the American people on the unprecedented security breach that may have influenced the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
“Russia should not have any influence on the destiny of the American people,” Hastings said. “Elections are a sacred practice established by our founding forefathers to advance our democracy and protect our nation’s independence.”
Senate Resolution 94 urges a bipartisan investigation by Congress and supports the call for a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to determine the extent of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential elections.
Hastings finds it appalling that the facts have not been laid out for the people of Illinois.
“As a nation, we need to take all necessary action to disarm our adversaries and protect the heart of democracy--our elections,” Hastings said.
In July of 2016, the Illinois State Board of Elections reported an attack that targeted the Illinois Voter Registration System Database.
Hastings introduced Senate Resolution 93 to require the Illinois State Board of Elections to produce a final comprehensive report outlining the nature of the breach, system audits and an outline of all preventative measures to ensure similar cyber interferences never happen again.
“We cannot allow this attack on democracy to go unresolved,” Hastings said. “The citizens of Illinois deserve to not only be informed on this breach of trust but be reassured the proper steps were taken to guarantee this will never happen again.”
Senate Resolution 93 and Senate Resolution 94 will be heard in the Senate this legislative session.
SPRINGFIELD - Seventeen-year-olds soon will be receiving more rights when it comes to getting involved in the political process.
House Bill 6167, which was sponsored by Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), was signed into law today. The new law would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary of a consolidated election if they would be 18 by the time of the consolidated election. Consolidated elections are held primarily for local offices, like school boards, city councils and village boards.
“We should be opening up access to the voting booth for those who will be 18 to have a full say in who represents them at every level of government,” Link said.
SPRINGFIELD - A measure sponsored by State Senator Terry Link that would assist in cleaning voter rolls and modernizing the election process was signed into law Thursday.The legislation, Senate Bill 1529, would allow the state to create the Electronic Registration Information (ERIC) Operations Fund. ERIC is an organization that collects voter information across states to update voter rolls.“Something that we continually have to do is preserve the integrity of our elections. By investing in our election system, we can ensure a smoother and more transparent process,” Link said.
SPRINGFIELD - Seventeen-year-olds throughout Illinois could see expanded voting rights because of legislation Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) is pushing through the Illinois Senate.
House Bill 6167 would allow 17-year-olds throughout the state to vote in the consolidated primary election if they will be 18 by the consolidated election. This is an expansion of the law that allowed 17-year-olds to vote in the general primary election if they were 18 by the general election.
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) announced Wednesday his intent to file legislation that will allow Illinois citizens to recall elected officials statewide.
“The purpose of this legislation is transparency and accountability,” said Harris. “We must hold our elected officials to a higher standard. If people decide they have lost trust in their elected officials, they should have the power to recall them.”
With the recent ill handling of the Laquan McDonald case and public outrage toward Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Harris said he was disturbed by the way things unfolded.