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Quinn makes clear he's no reformer
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 5/30/2009 11:18 PM

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Mark it down and commit it to memory. Thursday, May 28, 2009 is the day Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn went before a Senate committee and testified to all Illinoisans that he is a politician.

No more a populist. No more a self-styled reformer. Plainly, a politician. We've watched the devolution.

First, it was an utter lack of public and private support for the Illinois Reform Commission he named to suggest fixes for the state's tainted political system. There was no attempt to take their ideas and turn them into legislation. No real use of the bully pulpit to build momentum for their ideas. Next, Quinn spun 180 degrees by backing video poker and ignoring his long-standing call to let the people have their say about gambling.

Then came the story that Quinn's aides were asking for $15,000 contributions in return for face time with him at the height of the legislative session. And finally, Quinn cemented it himself: a sitting governor testifying before a Senate committee against his own commission and for lame limits on campaign donations that will hardly restrict a thing.

The politicians will tell us they restricted themselves. We know better. Quinn and fellow Democrats House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton cut a deal. They passed a plan that allows people to give politicians $5,000 a year. Companies and political groups can give $10,000 a year. Legislative leaders and political committees can give $90,000 a year. Pure politics translation: Madigan can give his House candidates $180,000 in a two-year term. Cullerton can give his Senate candidates $360,000 in a four-year term. And none of them are restricted at all in the amount of workers or other goods and services they can funnel to the candidates of their choice.

The commission Quinn had created suggested limits that mirror the federal restrictions our very own U.S. senators and members of Congress somehow manage to abide by of $2,400 from a person per election and $5,000 from companies. They recommended no more than $30,000 per election from a party committee to a legislative candidate. Translation: $4,800, $10,000 and $60,000 at most for a primary and general election to legislative candidates. Those are restrictions.

After two governors consecutively faced corruption charges, we had this one moment to seize. This one moment to stop the madness of money's overarching influence in our elections.

In this most essential area, Quinn, who had vowed to lead, failed.

"I think it's the best we can do at this time," he said as he turned his back on every Illinoisan who has supported real campaign donation limits.

It is far from the best we can do. It is far from the best Quinn can do. He could have negotiated more and fought much harder. He could have vetoed this plan and negotiated more and fought harder. Instead, he chose to try to grab at self preservation. He chose his own political future rather than ours.

Mark it down. Commit to memory. This is when Pat Quinn sold out. We won't forget.