GOP governor's hopefuls split on campaign finance limits
As donations pour into their campaign funds, the issue of limiting how much can be given to a candidate divides the six Republicans seeking the state's highest office.
In their responses to a Daily Herald questionnaire, several of the GOP governor hopefuls - Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard and Jim Ryan - said they consider money restrictions a key part of cleaning up the state's tarnished political and ethical image.
But others - Adam Andrzejewski, Andy McKenna and Dan Proft - had concerns or suggested such limits masquerade as reform without addressing deeper issues.
"Finance caps are illusory reform," said Andrzejewski, a Hinsdale businessman making his first bid for elected office. "First, anyone wanting to circumvent caps can find a way to do so. Second, they prevent potential reform-minded donors from funding reform candidates."
McKenna, the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and a noted fundraiser, expressed reservations about restricting political giving.
"While we should not deny our citizens their First Amendment right to contribute to candidates and participate in the political process, we should take reasonable steps to remedy the corrosive pay-to-play culture that has developed in Illinois whereby contracts and state business are regularly swapped for large campaign contributions," McKenna said. His solution is to limit how long legislative leaders can serve in the influential posts, a view shared by other candidates.
Proft, a conservative commentator from Chicago who's worked on and advised several past campaigns, also questioned whether campaign limits are a solution, pointing out that such limits in federal campaigns haven't yielded sparkling politics.
"I would also suggest that contribution caps will do nothing to change the culture either, just as contribution caps and McCain-Feingold have done nothing to stop a congressman from stashing $90,000 in his freezer or another from accepting illegal gifts from a defense contractor," Proft said.
Supporters of limits say they are crucial to changing Illinois politics.
"I support capping individual campaign contributions at the federal level of $2,400 for a primary and $2,400 for the general election cycle and prohibiting union and corporate contributions," said Brady, a state senator from Bloomington, who finished third in the 2006 GOP primary for governor.
Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale making his first statewide bid, said he voted against recent campaign limits pushed by Democratic leaders because the plans didn't include similar caps on how much the legislative leaders and political parties could donate in expensive November races. Despite Republican opposition, those laws passed and will be in place for the 2012 campaigns.
"In other words, not much will change," Dillard said.
Ryan, the former state attorney general, similarly said the plan Democrats passed didn't extend campaign limits far enough.
"We made a bad situation worse," said Ryan, who was the GOP nominee for governor in 2002, but lost to Democrat Rod Blagojevich.
The primary election is Feb. 2. The winner will face the Democratic nominee incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn or state Comptroller Dan Hynes in the November general election.