A grassroots attempt to tighten campaign finance laws is winning some support among the candidates to whom it applies, but not everyone is enamored with the pledge being pitched by the activist group, Citizens United in Forest Park.
CUinFP President Steve Backman and members of his organization crafted the campaign finance pledge last summer, making this year’s crop of election candidates the first to be solicited. Candidates who sign the pledge are under no legal obligation to abide by it, but Backman said it demonstrates a commitment to restricting the number of outside influences on village government.
“The state of Illinois has the worst campaign laws in the whole country,” Backman said. The state doesn’t require much. (The pledge) would send a message that they want to keep campaign finance local. I’m pleased that seven people signed on.”
So far, all of the mayoral candidates, except for incumbent Anthony Calderone, have agreed to at least some of Backman’s terms. Commissioner Patrick Doolin signed a modified version of the pledge, imposing stricter limitations in some areas and looser restrictions in others.
Though Negale Jackson was informed in December that he will not be certified by the village clerk to appear on the Feb. 27 primary ballot, he too signed the pledge. Jackson is contesting the clerk’s ruling in the Cook County Circuit Court.
“It just made sense to me,” Commissioner Terry Steinbach, who is a member of CUinFP, said. “I’m a firm believer in not taking money from people who do business with the village. It addresses a lot of the ethical issues that have dogged the village.”
Steinbach and Doolin are slated to face Calderone in the Feb. 27 primary.
The pledge asks candidates to refrain from soliciting village employees for campaign contributions, and to accept no more than $200 from those employees who do give. Contributions of more than $500 from companies that do business with the village are not allowed, and donations from non residents applying for zoning variances are also prohibited by the pledge. Contributions of more than $100 from non residents are also prohibited.
Illinois law does not limit campaign contributions to candidates for state or local office. State law simply stipulates that any gift of $150 or more must be itemized when candidates file their contribution reports with the state.
“In theory and concept I support what they’re trying to accomplish,” Doolin said.
CUinFP was founded in 2004 and has a membership of nearly 100, according to Backman. Mary Kay Minaghan, a CUinFP member and campaign advisor to Steinbach, is the principal author of the pledge, Backman said.
In October Doolin sent CUinFP a signed pledge with modifications. Doolin pledged not to accept any contributions from village employees and not to accept any contributions from companies that do business with the village – stricter conditions than CUinFP proposed. However, Doolin crossed out the paragraph pledging not to accept contributions of greater than $100 from individuals who reside outside of Forest Park.
On Aug. 18, 2006, Doolin’s campaign committee, Citizens for Doolin, received a $5,000 donation from Doolin’s parents, Jack and Sandy Doolin of Tinley Park, Ill.
Doolin said he is expecting a few other donations, some as much as $1,000, from friends and business acquaintances who live outside Forest Park. He also said he is prepared to spend $40,000 of his own money on his campaign.
At the close of the last reporting period on Oct. 8, 2006, Citizens for Doolin had $5,032.73 in the bank.
Doolin said he supports the idea behind the CUinFP pledge but competing against someone with the war chest that Calderone has makes it impractical to follow the pledge in its entirety.
Calderone said he saw no need to sign the pledge.
“I did not sign the pledge because the state of Illinois has campaign laws in place that were designed by people smarter than me,” Calderone said. “I chose to comply with the laws of the state. The way campaign laws work in Illinois there is full disclosure. My own personal opinion is that these are unnecessary restrictions. Living in a free society people ought to be able to show their support for officials who they have confidence in and are doing a good job as a public servant.”
As of Oct. 8, 2006, Calderone’s campaign committee, Citizens for Anthony Calderone, reported $30,700 in contributions. Last week Calderone estimated he has about $45,000 in his campaign treasury following a fund-raiser held late last year. Calderone has taken criticism for accepting contributions from companies that do business with the village.
Among the candidates for village council Marty Tellalian, John Plepel, Jerry Webster and Carl Nyberg signed the pledge. Michael Curry, Rory Hoskins, Anthony Lazzara and incumbent Commissioner Mark Hosty did not sign the pledge.