SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Senate unanimously overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of an ethic bills that bans “pay-to-play” political donations. The bill prohibits entities that do more than $50,000 in state business from giving political donations to those who control their contracts.
Blagojevich vetoed the bill in August, but the House voted this month to override the veto and the Senate’s 55-0 vote means the measure will take effect Jan. 1.
Blagojevich vetoed the bill, claiming he had a better alternative. Blagojevich’s plan contained additional restrictions and prohibited lawmakers from taking side jobs in local governments.
Critics said Blagojevich was trying to kill the bill to keep the present system, which has allowed Blagojevich to raise millions in contributions.
Barack Obama, a former state senator, interceded to jump-start the bill and in the process derail an attempt by Republicans to tie him to Chicago’s shady political culture. Obama urged Senate President Emil Jones, who supported Blagojevich’s veto, to call the measure to a vote. Jones had indicated that he might not call the measure to a vote after the House overrode the veto.
Campaign contributions have long been controversial in Illinois. Former Gov. George Ryan is serving time in federal prison for steering state contracts to major contributors and similar allegations surfaced this year in the trial of political fund raiser Antoin Rezko, who raised money for Blagojevich and Obama – neither of whom has been accused of any wrongdoing.
A recent analysis in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that half of Illinois’ 50 top service contractors are major Blagojevich donors.