NOT ILLEGAL = LEGAL? Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, convicted last week for income tax evasion related to his gambling away more than $200,000 in campaign funds, used an interesting defense in his federal trial. Illinois campaign law does not list gambling among the prohibited uses of campaign donations, Beavers argued, therefore it's OK to blow your donors' money at the gambling establishment of your choice. In Beavers' case, the choice for three years was the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., where he earned VIP status en route to losing nearly $500,000.
It was a fascinating work of logic for two reasons. First, it was ridiculous on its face. Second, Beavers wasn't charged with misusing his campaign funds. He was charged with failing to report his personal use of those funds as income on his taxes.
Matt Dietrich's blog today notes that there are only so many campaign laws that can be written, and none will deter the William Beaverses of the world. Do you agree? Read it here and sound off in the comments.
REBOOTING BATAVIA Want to learn more about Reboot Illinois and its mission? Come hear from editor Matt Dietrich, Chief Operating Officer Madeleine Doubek and Director of Digital Strategy Anthony Knierem at 7 p.m. April 4 in Meeting Room A of the Batavia Public Library, 10 S. Batavia Ave. (Route 31 and Wilson Street) in Batavia. We want to hear your thoughts on improving Illinois' government, state finances, schools and business climate.
FOX IN THE PENSION COOP Retired University of Illinois business and legal issues Prof. John Kindt writes in an op-ed today that the Securities and Exchange Commission's finding this month that Illinois committed securities fraud by hiding its pension trouble should sound a warning about the current efforts at pension reform. Even though the SEC action carried no penalty or admission of guilt from the state, it ought to signal that maybe the people complicit in the fraud shouldn't be in charge of fixing it now, Kindt writes. Kindt is especially irked that a sound plan to restore security to the State University Retirement System (posted in its entirety here) has been all but ignored by lawmakers. Find Kindt's column here.
DALEY TIP-OFF We kick off today's Illinois reform news roundup by calling your attention to an op-ed piece in today's Chicago Tribune by William Daley, former U.S. commerce secretary, White House chief of staff and member of one of Illinois' great political dynasties. "Like a lot of people across Illinois, I look at our state government and I am amazed at how dysfunctional it continues to be, year after year — same old political fights, same old bickering, nothing gets done," begins Daley, who goes on to blast the "dysfunction" in state government in a column that uses the word "change" eight times.
These days, Daley's introduction also includes the descriptor "possible 2014 gubernatorial candidate," and the tone of his Tribune column certainly indicates he's at least thinking about it.
Daley has made no formal announcement of his plans for the 2014 Democratic primary, of course. And speculation has been that he won't challenge Gov. Pat Quinn if Attorney General Lisa Madigan decides to do so. If Madigan does run for governor, it's likely that Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who announced in December she won't seek her current office again but intends to run for something, will run for attorney general. That's according to a Chicago Magazine article on Simon by writer Carol Felsenthal.
Also in our Daily Tip-Off section, mayors around the state are frantic about the possible loss of $5 per resident under a Quinn administration plan to share a much smaller portion of the state income tax with municipalities. They say it'll force them to further cut services that have steadily been cut for years now or raise taxes.
And Chicago Public Schools, fearing the possibility of gang violence as students travel to new schools in new neighborhoods next fall, plans to nearly double the amount it now spends on its "Safe Passage" program, in which neighborhood residents are paid to help kids avoid danger en route to school.
We have links to these and other stories in today's Daily Tip-Off section on our website.
DEMAND ACTION Last week, the Illinois House passed an important pension reform measure that must be part of any worthwhile effort to fix the state's pension crisis. But will it make it into a final bill and get a vote in the Senate? Click here and help us send a message to our leaders that we demand pension reform and an end to the financial instability that is hurting our schools, our economy and has given Illinois the lowest credit rating in the country.
WE'RE HIRING! We are looking for a director of outreach to work with our partners both on social media platforms and in the communities. See the job description here. Know anyone who would be a great fit? Pass on this email!
WANT TO TAKE ACTION? LOOK HERE As Illinois continues to meander in addressing its dire financial problems, U.S. Sen. Mark is concerned that his home state and others might eventually give up and turn to the federal government for a lifeline. No way, says Kirk. He's introduced a resolution to prohibit bailouts of states that created their own financial problems. We've created a petition where you can show your support for Kirk's effort. Click here and sign on.
While you're at it, why not let Cook County government know that it's time to downsize and remove some of the temptation that comes with unnecessary elected offices? Last week, Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association wrote about some fairly crazy personnel dealings in the office of Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough. It was a reminder to him, and us, of the need to combine offices to improve efficiency and discourage the bad behavior that comes with the political clout of an elected office. (Be sure to read it if you missed it last week. It's an egregious example of "only in Illinois" political culture.) Sign our petition here.
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