Despite ongoing high profile corruption cases in Illinois, the crisis of confidence at the statehouse went unaddressed during the recently concluded legislative session as lawmakers left the capitol to focus on the 2022 elections.
At 4 in the morning Saturday, the last day of spring session, state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, stood up to point out a glaring omission in the work of the legislature.
“Here we are, groundhog day for me, four years, four end of sessions and still not ethics reform,” Caulkins said. “Year after year, none.”
He was then interrupted by state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, who was serving as the chair of the House.
“Representative Caulkins, I understand,” Hoffman said. “We get it. It’s 4 o’clock in the morning.”
Caulkins was allowed to wrap up his remarks.
“We now have another member of this body under investigation and we will not address ethics reforms,” Caulkins said.
The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, who also serves as the mayor of Calumet City, is under federal investigation over campaign finance issues.
Alisa Kaplan with Reform For Illinois said with that, and the federal case against former House Speaker Michael Madigan, the lack of substantive ethics reforms heading into an election should be a strong message to Illinois voters.
“The message they’re sending to voters is they don’t expect this to hurt them and I hope that voters send a different message,” Kaplan told The Center Square. “We really need to be paying attention to these things because if we don’t, the problem is just going to continue.”
Lawmakers did pass a measure to create a task force to review providing public financing for judicial elections, but Kaplan said much more needs to be done.
Madigan faces 22 counts of federal corruption charges, including racketeering, bribery and extortion. Federal prosecutors allege that for nearly a decade, Madigan and others operated “Madigan Enterprise” to use the former speaker’s positions in the statehouse and in the Democratic Party of Illinois for personal gain. Madigan has pleaded not guilty.
Kaplan said lawmakers could have addressed conflicts of interest, like a legislator working at a law firm that handles property tax appeals as Madigan did. There also could have been restrictions on legislative leaders controlling political money and, in turn, their members. But, nothing substantive happened.
“The legislature isn’t particularly interested in addressing this problem that we’ve been facing for decades and has really come to a head in the past few years," Kaplan said. "If the indictment of Speaker Madigan wasn’t going to do it, what’s going to do it?”
Lawmakers aren’t scheduled back until after the November elections.