Full participatory democracy: it’s been a national goal since America’s founding. Today citizens recognize that money sometimes plays a warping role in electoral politics and hobbles progress towards full democracy. During the past decade, with Washington, D.C. mired in stalemate and in thrall to special interests, many states have stepped forward and introduced innovative laws that enhance the power of ordinary citizens in the political process. States as different in political culture as Arizona and Connecticut have created bold systems to reform campaign finance laws, create voluntary public financing, and ensure that enforcement is fair and vigorous.
This report assesses Illinois’s campaign finance system; we are developing similar reports for Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. It finds that an absence of any campaign contribution limits or public financing, limited disclosure, and poor enforcement of existing campaign finance laws are pushing campaign costs through the roof and fueling a pay-to-play culture that threatens to undermine public confidence in state and local government.