Last spring, when little, if any, good news was emerging from our state capitol, the political reform group CHANGE Illinois did something few thought possible. They passed legislation, with PCG’s help, that limited individual contributions to political candidates in Illinois.
The victory was not complete. The reform did not limit political party leaders from contributing to general election races. We will file legislation toward this end for the new General Assembly to consider.
Political—and especially campaign finance—reform is always a very difficult target. We continue the struggle. The strength of our democracy depends on it. PCG will always be engaged in political reform because of our two-fold belief that all are equal in the sight of God, and our political system must be structured so that we will treat each other that way.
In the midst of our current election season, CHANGE Illinois, comprised of over 70 civic, professional, and advocacy groups, is not only continuing to move forward but broadening its agenda. They have developed a list of Twenty Questions —get it? “Twenty Questions”—that will put all of the candidates running for office on record. Equally important in this election season, it will help us to decide whether they deserve our support on November 2nd.
About 220 of the 354 candidates running for office have responded. We need your help with the approximately 130 who have not. We are giving you the opportunity to check what is happening in your district and forward immediately a letter if your candidates are among the non-respondents.
In supporting the questionnaire, you will be asking them to take a stand on other key issues. My personal favorite is one with addressing how our judges are chosen. Consider the following:
This year, Judge Tom Kilbride is standing for re-election as a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. To gain office, candidates for the State Supreme Court must run against an opponent. In subsequent elections, they run without opposition, but must get 60% of the vote to be retained.
Kilbride is in the race of his life: doctors and other medical professionals did not like his ruling against caps on malpractice settlements. They have raised over $1 million dollars to defeat him. Others are giving big money to support him.
It is difficult to find an alternative way of selecting judges that all agree upon. Merit selection is one answer. Using public funds to finance judicial elections is another. But we surely can agree that a system in which wealthy contributors often appear before the judges they have helped to elect is immoral.
The questionnaire seeks views about “redistricting,” that is, whether the party in power should draw the political map of Illinois every ten years, or whether a less partisan alternative should be sought. It asks whether budgets being considered by the Illinois General Assembly should be made available to legislators, and the public, at least 48 hours before they are voted on
Can you believe that this does not already happen? The fact that is does not is a clear reason, along with 19 others, why we should take this questionnaire seriously.