Daily Herald
Reform will return pride in government
Published: 5/27/2009 12:00 AM

CHANGE Illinois!, which we co-chair with Deborah Harrington, is a coalition of more than 100 individuals and nearly 50 organizations representing more than 2.5 million voters.

We are committed to reforming the role money plays in elections.

Our recommendations are identical to those sought by reform groups. They are simple and track the federal law: limit contributions in each election cycle (not each year) to $2,400 from individuals, cap contributions at $5,000 from interest groups-including business and labor-and restrict legislative leaders to $30,000 transfers to members.

As emotions build again in the final days of the spring legislative session, we ask policy makers to understand these recommendations are based on three simple principles on which we hope all can agree:

For elections to be fair, encouraging competitive races, every candidate and potential candidate should be playing on an even field, and money is an important leveler.

Once elected, the officeholder should be committed to the interests of constituents, not the groups or legislative leaders whose contributions frequently dwarf those of people in the district.

Probably most important, the future of democracy is tied to genuine voter participation. Illinois' recent sordid history truly imperils our voters' trust. Without real change, voters have reason to be disaffected.

This General Assembly impeached and removed a governor whose actions threatened our faith in government. That was a bipartisan effort.

Friday, it was clear that ethics issues were being cast in a partisan and confrontational way, with people questioning one another's motives. We cannot let partisan or personal rancor or manipulation destroy an opportunity to change the history of Illinois government.

This is an unusual moment when all elected officials can get credit for sound reforms or all get blamed for shams.

We are working hard with members of the General Assembly, the governor and the thousands who have called, written and visited them to express support for campaign finance reform. But we have to deliver genuine results.

As Senate President John Cullerton said last week, "Everybody should just calm down and take a deep breath." It is good advice. Then let's show Illinois residents we can be proud of our government.

Peter Bensinger

George Ranney

Co-Chairs CHANGE Illinois!