Illinois Has Much to Teach PA.

Op-ed notes the Blagojevich debacle should be a warning to other states.

February 25, 2009

Appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The downfall of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had so many lurid facets —auctioning President Obama's vacant Senate seat, pushing to get Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired, cursing like a longshoreman—that one key detail is easily lost in the mix. In the months leading up to his arrest, the governor was busy trying to get in his last big-money shakedowns before a new pay-to-play law took effect on Jan. 1.

The law, inspired by Blagojevich's own misdeeds, prohibits businesses with state contracts worth more than $50,000 from donating to the campaign of an official approving the contract. The law also makes it clear that the governor is responsible for executive-branch contracts.

In the campaign-finance arena, Illinois has long been a poster child for what not to do. It remains, for example, one of five states with no contribution limits. But the new pay-to-play law finally blocks one important avenue for abuse: unlimited campaign contributions to state officials from those seeking lucrative state contracts. 

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