Illinois' corruption problem is no different than the political corruption that plagues the whole country. The recent scandal with former Governor Blagojevich bared much of the problem. Upon close examination of the documents that were released by federal prosecutors, there is a common thread to all of the corruption. That thread weaves consistently through the campaign finance funds of the former Governor.
In almost every case of wrongdoing alleged to have occurred, the money was to be contributed to the Friends of Rod Blagojevich, which was his campaign fund. His reelection chances increased with every political favor he granted, and with every arm he twisted. This is how political corruption works.
So how do we fix this problem? We must make elected officials obey the law, enforcing ethics upon people who already have no respect for the law. I do not feel that limiting contributions is right or effective. If a candidate is disallowed from freely spending his or her money on campaigning, certainly the backing party is not so bound. Neither are friends or family, unless we try to straight jacket the whole nation in fear of an extra dollar being spent.
Ultimately the electorate is responsible for their choices. We get the government we vote for, so if we put no care into our votes, we also must be indifferent to corruption when it occurs. But that leads to poor governance which in turn leads to degradation of the general welfare. This is unfair punishment upon those of us who do care about issues and principles.
The evolution of the political process also has led to the false sense that if a program is popular, then it should be passed even when it is unconstitutional. The monster that results is more like the democracy our founding fathers feared than the republic we used to pledge allegiance to. In that democratic monster, politicians pass programs that shower benefits upon the public, and they are rewarded with votes for re-election. It is no wonder that respect for the Constitution has become rare.
The only answer that I can see that retains the principles of Freedom of Speech and at the same time moves to limit abuse of power, is to limit politician's terms in office. There still exists the opportunity for corruption, because the root of corruption runs deeper than the elected official. The power of the major parties, with their ability to funnel funds, still exists. And a threat exists that freshmen legislators will be too eager to learn the ropes from those wielding that power. But in the end that power will be diluted.
By limiting the number of terms that a politician can serve, the parties and the power brokers will have to look for new avenues for their abuse each election. That means that honesty and integrity will have a chance to surface at the polls and on the floor of the Legislature.
For this reason, I have decided to support the Putback Amendment. The amendment has several elements that are designed to put fairness back in the electoral process. One of this is term limits. If we can get this amendment to the Illinois Constitution passed, we will be taking giant steps toward more responsible and ethical government.
Only through constitutional amendment can we permanently mitigate the abusive power that has become commonplace in Illinois. And only we, the people, can make this change. We must change this system of corruption for ourselves, and for our future.