Governor Quinn apparently believes that some special interests are more special than others. This Tuesday when he vetoed legislation to expand gaming, Governor Quinn specifically cited the absence of a ban on campaign contributions. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote in a column yesterday: “Quinn ‘was more convinced than ever the absence of a ban on campaign contributions from gaming licenses and casino managers was a deal breaker.”
Governor Quinn apparently believes that some people whose livelihood depends on state lawmakers’ decisions should be restricted from making campaign donations to those lawmakers and elected officials. However, he shows selective concern for conflicts of interest in campaign finance by refusing to take action to address the most glaring conflict of interest in state government: contributions from government unions.
In his last campaign, Governor Quinn’s largest campaign contributors were government unions like SEIU, AFSCME and the IEA, giving him over $5 million. More recently, we saw this summer that while the Democrat-controlled General Assembly negotiated and then failed to act on pension reform, leadership committees for the Democrat House and Senate majorities raked in nearly $450,000 in contributions from SEIU, alone.
Make no mistake; the biggest and most powerful special interest in Springfield is the government unions. These powerhouse unions are the largest contributors to the legislative leaders in the General Assembly and the Governor, the very same leaders who are supposedly representing the taxpayers in direct negotiations and in determining how to reform pensions and curb spending. Doesn’t this seem like a conflict of interest?
Governor Quinn’s insistence on a ban of casino operators’ contributions to politicians is a convenient excuse to veto legislation he did not like. However, if he has a newfound commitment to ending glaring conflicts of interest involving state government, he should support AFP’s and Sen. Matt Murphy’s effort this past session to prohibit government unions with collective bargaining agreements with the state from contributing to the elected officials (or candidates) with whom they have agreements. Businesses with state contracts are already prohibited from contributing in this way. The legislation (SB 2988) was buried in committee by Senate Democrats, but Governor Quinn the ethical crusader could be just the leader to resurrect it.
Illinois politicians have pandered to government unions for decades, overpromising pensions and benefits that now saddle our state with unsustainable debt. If Governor Quinn is so concerned with the role money and influence plays in shaping public policy, perhaps he should look at the influence of some of his largest contributors.