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Campaign Finance Reform

Two States With Tarnished Images Make Strong Gains on Ethics in 2008

Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in ethics scandals.  While sometimes there is talk of reform and other overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive.  However, some states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change.  This year Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics overhauls any state has in generations.

Illinois Legislature Passes Pay-to-Play Contracting Reform, Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

Illinois stands out as a state famous for corrupt politics.  For generations, patronage and pay-to-play politics have been raised to an art form by state and local politicians.  The state's last governor is in jail for racketeering.  The current governor is under federal investigation for allegedly giving jobs and no-bid contracts to campaign supporters, more than 200 of whom have given the governor checks for exactly $25,000.  Advocates of good government such as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have fought for years to bring the states' corrupt government officials to heel.

Corporate Influence on State Supreme Courts Show Need for Reform

Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.  TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.  And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.  Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.

Washington House Passes Public Financing for Local Offices

In the wake of a bitter 2004 Governor's election and state Supreme Court races that took in more money from third-party groups than any other high court campaign in the country, Washington State's House took the first step toward public financing by passing HB 1551. Introduced by Senator Joe McDermott, HB 1551 allows cities, counties, and other jurisdictions to provide local candidates with government financing.  The bill only allows local taxes to be tapped for the public campaign accounts and the public funds cannot be used for campaigns for state offices or school boards.

Shutting the Courtroom Door: How the Corporate Right Mobilized in the States

When an impeccably pro-business outfit like Business Week declares victory for the business lobby in shutting the courtroom door to victims of corporate negligence, you know injured consumers and workers have been losing badly. But this week's cover story, How Business Trounced The Trial Lawyers, illustrates how the corporate right leveraged campaign contributions in the last decade to hijack state policy on civil justice.

Cleaning Up Corruption in the Statehouses

At the core of many voters' frustrations with government is the sense that, too often, politics is for sale. High-priced lobbyists offering "gifts" to lawmakers swarm state legislatures; companies looking for public contracts get too cozy with those handing out public money; and corporate campaign contributions grease the wheels as public policy is auctioned to the highest corporate bidder.