Flood; Crackdown on Campaign Finance Abuse

IPSN June 18, 1997

Anchor John J. Flood, president of the Combined Counties Police Association and publisher of the Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News, called for tougher and more stringent campaign finance disclosure laws to crack down on corruption by elected officials. Flood said the existing laws are insufficient to cover loopholes that allow elected officials to solicit campaign donations, and he said the state’s laws monitoring such corruption are weak and without teeth.

Citing the recent conviction of Chicago Alderman Jesse Evans (21st), Flood blamed the vagueness of the existing campaign finance laws which allowed Evans to mount a defense by attempting to call a bribe he received a “campaign donation.”

Evans was found guilty June 16 of 15 counts including accepting $7,300 from a building contractor in his ward who received street cleaning services at his construction site in exchange for the payment.

“When a cop takes money, they call it a bribe and there is no question about the legality. But when a politician takes money, they call it a campaign contribution and they are allowed to take as much of it as they want with no real effective oversight organization to watch that they don’t already control,” Flood said.

“If you want to root out corruption in government and politics, toughen up the disclosure laws, limit how much money can be raised and when, and establish a neutral, non-government watchdog organization to review disclosures and impose penalties in cases of violations.”

Flood cited dozens of Chicago politicians who have been convicted on charges they accepted bribes, and in nearly every case, the accused asserted the bribe was a “campaign contribution.”

“The fact is the laws are vague because they are written by the very people who break them, the politicians,” Flood said.

Flood suggested the following changes to toughen laws and reduce corruption:

1. Allow politicians to solicit campaign monies ONLY during election season and ONLY after they have filed their statements of candidacy. Campaign funds should not be collected between elections.

2. Place a limit on the amount of money that can be collected in a given year based on the election: $3 million for Chicago mayor; $100,000 for Chicago alderman, Party committeemen, or state legislative office; $500,000 for statewide office.

3. Prohibit any politician from using any of the money for personal use and eliminate the exclusion that now allows a politician to pay him or herself a salary or payment as long as it is disclosed on their personal income tax forms.

4. Require every politician to file their personal income tax forms when they file their disclosure forms.

5. Better define instances of violations.

6. Prohibit any politician from obtaining money from any contractor or individual who is or has done business with the agency the politician is associated with during the past six months.

“If you want to end corruption in government, then we have to take a serious look at revamping campaign finance disclosure laws,” Flood said.

“As it stands now, the Illinois Election Board is useless in enforcing the laws or assessing penalties because the people they would have to punish are the very people who control their agency. The County Clerk’s disclosure division is no different. When was the last time either agency fined or penalized in a substantial way a violation of any of these laws.”

Flood suggested that agencies such as the Chicago Crime Commission, the Better Government Association and the Civic Federation be responsible for selecting individuals or creating the oversight board that would monitor campaign related violations and complaints.

“Any or all of these agencies and others would be excellent in monitoring this problem,” Flood said.

“You can’t have the foxes guarding the hen house and that is the situation that we have now. It’s wrong. Can anyone tell me that if you wave $10,000 in front of an alderman’s face, you won’t get his or her attention?”

Flood blasted former Chicago alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, noting Vrdolyak was named in connection with the recent Evans’ conviction.

And, Flood blasted Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Cook County Democratic Party for co-hosting a $2,500-a-person sponsors reception and a $125-a-person cocktail reception for labor leader Edward Hanley June 17 that is expected to bring in more than $1 million. Hanley’s ties to organized crime have been the subject of public discussion for years and are well established. The Federal Government called Hanley’s union one of the three most corrupt unions in the country.

Another sponsor is Bruno Caruso, president of the Chicago District Council of the Laborer’s International Union, which is expected to be taken over by the International. Caruso, Hanley and Daley shared the podium together in what Flood called “a true display of hypocrisy.”

“These politicians are hypocritical. The day Daley unveils his anti-corruption laws he is co-hosting a reception fund-raiser for a man who has open ties to mobsters and controls one of the nation’s most powerful mob-run labor unions which is now under federally imposed trusteeship,” Flood said.

Hanley was Daley’s point man on bringing gambling to Chicago.

“Political contributions are like bribes and dirty politicians like Ed Vrdolyak and his ilk are allowed to manipulate the laws and the filing of the documents and that has to stop,” Flood said.

“When was the last time a politician was fined for violating the disclosure laws?”

The Combined Counties Police Association publishes the twice monthly publication, Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News which reports on government corruption, police news and the activities of organized crime.

IPSN maintains a World Wide Web page at https://ipsn.org where news on these and other subjects is posted for public review.

Flood said he will distribute his proposal to independent agencies in the hopes of stimulating an independent movement to end government corruption.