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Ethics Commission Seeks More Accountability for Legislative Wrongdoers

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Members of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform sought input on what could have been done to prevent recent high-profile conflicts of interest and what more must be done to hold lawmakers accountable at a hearing Thursday. 

“We’re here to make systemic change, close loopholes, and root out opportunities for corrupt behavior that have been identified in recent media reports and investigations,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, who co-chairs the commission. “Yesterday, the governor talked about restoring public trust and cleaning up government. He specifically talked about dealing with disclosures of conflicts of interest, revolving door laws, and limitations on lobbying. Looking around the room as the governor talked, I was happy to see he got a rousing ovation for these three items. From the House, from the Senate, from Democrats, from Republicans. That’s a very good sign for our work. But these proposals are only as good as their details, and it is our job to fill in those details.”

 

Brad Cole of the Illinois Municipal League and former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon encouraged members to update and improve the financial interest disclosures legislators are currently required to file. Cole reiterated the need for more complete lobbyist disclosures, including disclosure of lobbyists being paid to influence local governments. Aside from state government, only a handful of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government have any kind of disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence decision-making by public officials.

“People deserve to know that their lawmakers are voting in their communities’ best interests, not in their own interest,” said Sen. Elgie Sims, co-chair of the commission. “We look forward to continuing to engage with experts and stakeholders in these critical discussions.”