DuPage County Board revises ethics law; makes cap on campaign contributions less restrictive
On Tuesday August 27th, Maryam Judar gave public comment regarding the revision of the ethics law at both the DuPage County Finance Committee Meeting and the full County Board meeting. The revision passed. Commissioner Liz Chaplin was the single vote against the change. The article appearing in the Daily Herald on August 28th is below:
DuPage County Board loosens cap on campaign contributions
By Robert Sanchez
The DuPage County Board has repealed its self-imposed cap on campaign contributions after the state's attorney's office told members the restrictions can't be enforced.
Instead, DuPage now will mirror state law when it comes to limiting the amount of campaign money county board members and the board chairman can accept from donors doing or seeking county government work. The state cap is less restrictive than the previous limit in DuPage's ethics law.
Advertisement "I like the lower limits personally," county board member Robert Larsen said. "But our state's attorney's office — our lawyers — are telling us it is unenforceable."
Before DuPage's ethics law was revised on Tuesday night, it capped campaign donations from companies and consulting firms, as well as officers and owners of those entities, to $1,000 a year. That limit also applied to any individual appointed or applying for appointment to serve on a board, commission, authority, task force or advisory committee.
Now those same entities and individuals can donate up to $5,300 to county board members and the board chairman during each election cycle. An election cycle can be two or four years.
Government watchdog groups urged the county board to keep the local limit, which DuPage adopted in 2010.
"This revision of the ethics ordinance goes in the wrong direction," said Maryam Judar, executive director of the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center.
But First Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Wolfe advised county board members that they must follow state law when it comes to campaign contribution restrictions because DuPage isn't home rule.
"The state has set the limits (and) has not given a non-home rule entity authority to enact anything more restrictive or less restrictive," Wolfe said.
The reason DuPage was able to set its cap in 2010 was because the state-imposed limits hadn't yet taken effect. Now that the state law is in place, Wolfe said, "we are bound to follow that."
"A non-home rule county doesn't have authority to act unless it's specifically given," Wolfe said. "No authority (to limit campaign contributions) has been given to us by the state legislature or the Illinois Constitution or the common law."
Judar said she disagrees with that legal opinion. "I don't think it is clear that DuPage County as a non-home rule entity cannot exercise more restrictive ethics," she said.
In addition, officials with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have said DuPage could, through its procurement system, require vendors to promise not to give more than a set amount to candidates for offices that might have a role in the issuance of their contracts.
Attempts to delay Tuesday night's vote on the ethics law revisions failed. Some board members sought the delay to give watchdog groups a chance to respond to the opinion from the state's attorney's office.
"We're forcing this through," said Elizabeth Chaplin, the only county board member to vote against the revisions. "We're wasting our time on increasing political campaign donations."
A panel of Government Reform Advocates discuss the role of corruption in Illinois politics, why corruption is so prevalent, and what can be done to decrease corruption in Illinois government. Listen to our Executive Director, Terry Pastika's assessment of the situation from 30:46 - 40:04.
Did you miss the "Suburban Corruption" discussion with Dr. Dick Simpson sponsored by CAC and Elmhurst College? Listen at http://www.wbez.org/amplified/green-grass-and-graft-corruption-suburbs-102884
Beyond the Chicago Border:
Ms. Dee Longfellow asked in her 9/27/12 editorial, “Is anyone else offended?” by the Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC) and Elmhurst College hosting Dr. Dick Simpson of UIC to discuss his latest academic paper on political corruption. The tone was sarcastic musing of why a Chicagoan should come to suburbia to talk about corruption. This is why: Corruption does not stop at the Chicago border. Dr. Simpson is nationally recognized for his vast experience in addressing government issues, both as an insider and a watchdog. He has spent a career documenting the “corruption tax” paid when public officials serve for personal interest rather than the public interest. His sixth report, "Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs" documents convictions beyond Chicago’s borders and offers tangible reform solutions.
CAC was also identified as “the local hot bed of political dirt digging” and an organization that protests indiscriminately. We are an award-winning community legal organization that for 20 years has worked to build democracy by strengthening the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. CAC’s work starts in Elmhurst and extends statewide. Our resources are free, our doors are open to the public, and information about CAC is available at www.citizenadvocacycenter.org. The following are a few highlights of CAC’s work in Elmhurst:
1) Protecting First Amendment Free Speech rights via a federal lawsuit and bringing statewide and national media exposure to anti-democratic activity in City Hall. We also worked with District 205 to protect Free Speech rights during public comment (twice);
2) Reforming Illinois’ Tax Increment Financing law based on issues identified in the Elmhurst TIF 3 creation process and helping a community group organize to reduce TIF incentives approved on a TIF 1 project from the initial $5 million plus request to $1.2 million;
3) Questioning finance issues at City Hall. One inquiry led to monies being repaid; and
4) Helping individuals successfully organize. Examples include, placing referenda on the ballot, addressing a gas station leak, helping a local journalist protest the selling of a local paper, and helping organize a march to promote a historic preservation ordinance.
People worldwide are fighting for the freedoms Americans have, yet very few Americans actually engage in the democratic process. If a qualifier for “political dirt digging” and indiscriminate protesting includes teaching people interested in government issues how to successfully use First Amendment freedoms, along with community lawyers enforcing democratic rights, I regard that as a compliment.
Ms. Terry Pastika
Executive Director/ Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center
Suburban Corruption Forum: What Corruption Tax Are You Paying? CAC and Elmhurst College partner to bring author, professor, and former Chicago Alderman Dr. Dick Simpson from UIC who has written another study on the cost of corruption, this time focusing on the suburbs.
Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs will be held on Monday, October 1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Founders Lounge of the Frick Center. The event is free and open to the public.
After the forum, Simpson and Mixon will sign copies of their book Twenty-First Century Chicago (2011). The book takes a fresh look at metropolitan Chicago today, during a pivotal point in the region’s economic, social, political, and governmental history. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.
For more information about the forum, contact Constance Mixon at (630) 617-3569, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Terry Pastika at (630) 833-4080, email@example.com.
Read complete information here.
LTE Daily Herald Published 7/25/12
Lombard remap was self-serving
In response to “Lombard trustees keep districts in remap,” July 14, the facts lead to the conclusion that incumbency protection was the number one priority.
This is evident by Lombard’s adoption of a map in which a one-block-wide section of District 2 extends two blocks into an area surrounding District 6 in order to keep an incumbent’s home in District 2. This is further evident by the fact that 10 maps were dismissed for lack of incumbency protection.
We cannot know what kinds of decisions led to 19 potential maps in Lombard, because despite alternatives such as holding a workshop or a special village board meeting, Lombard trustees decided to keep the process closed by each trustee meeting separately with staff members in redrawing the boundaries, thereby deliberately thwarting of our state’s Open Meetings Act.
The fact that 19 different maps resulted from those private meetings attests to the possibilities that there are all kinds of decisions that could go into redistricting: some are mandatory such as those demanded by the Voting Rights Act, and others just make sense in a healthy democracy.
If the process of redistricting doesn’t include all the stakeholders, then the process becomes “malnourished” and the result is a less than healthy democracy. One consequence is fewer candidate choices at the ballot.
In contrast, if the decisions behind redistricting are made for reasons that protect the interests of the residents in the potential district rather than the interests of a the incumbent politicians, then the process will result in a healthier democracy where, for example, voters have meaningful choices of candidates on the ballot.
When politicians are in control of the process, they will act in self-serving ways. An alternative is a process that includes meaningful participation by other stakeholders.
Citizen Advocacy Center