CHANGE Illinois has 20 Questions for the Candidates

In the wake of the Blagojevich corruption trial, voters want to know where candidates stand on electoral and government reforms

CHICAGO, IL – The CHANGE Illinois! coalition has asked every candidate for Governor and the General Assembly to answer 20 straightforward questions on a range of electoral and government reform issues.

Created in conjunction with eight reform organizations, the CHANGE Illinois! questionnaire seeks information about candidates’ opinions on a variety of issues, including limits on campaign contributions by legislative leaders, judicial selection, lobbying, and redistricting.

The reform activists and the CHANGE Illinois! member organizations will press all of the candidates to answer all of the questions, and voters will be able to view and compare candidate responses at well before the Nov. 2 general election. The website also will highlight the candidates NOT answering all of the questions.

“With one ex-governor in prison and a second one recently convicted, the people of Illinois want to know what the candidates for public office propose to do to restore faith in our government,” said Peter Bensinger, a CHANGE Illinois! co-chair and a former Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “If you want to represent us in Springfield, you should be willing and able to answer these questions and follow through, if elected.”

CHANGE Illinois! is a growing coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations and individuals. Members include AARP, Chicago Urban League, The Civic Federation, Community Renewal Society, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Latino Policy Forum, United Congress of Community & Religious Organizations, and Voices for Illinois Children.

“Illinoisans are increasingly concerned about the state’s fiscal crisis and its impact on residents. This isn’t just about the budget crisis, it’s also a crisis of confidence in the state’s ability to fix these problems,” said Bob Gallo, Senior State Director for AARP Illinois. “AARP has 1.7 million members in Illinois. Ninety percent of them are registered voters, and over 70 percent of them vote in every election. Our members want to know what solutions candidates will bring to the table to put Illinois back in the right track, as they ponder their vote for November’s mid-term election.”

The questionnaire was developed with the help of the following reform organizations: Better Government Association, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, and Protestants for the Common Good.

“Thanks to the triple whammy of the economy, the budget and the Blagojevich trial, Illinois voters in 2010 have a lot of questions and want straight answers from the candidates,” said Deborah Harrington, former president of the Woods Fund of Chicago and a CHANGE Illinois! co-chair. “We’re giving them a head start with 20 good questions that all candidates should answer.”

The CHANGE Illinois! coalition was formed in 2009 in support of campaign contribution limits. Later that year, legislation creating the state’s first-ever limits system was passed. The contribution caps take effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Organizations and individuals in the CHANGE Illinois! coalition hold a range of positions on issues of importance to Illinois. The coalition as a whole supports expanding the enacted limits to include contributions by legislative leaders and political parties to candidates in the general election, and it supports increased transparency and public involvement as the boundary lines for legislative districts are adjusted following the 2010 Census. Some members of the coalition have taken positions on other issues covered in the questionnaire, but the coalition as a whole has not taken positions on topics of the other survey questions.

“Too many candidates are reluctant to take a stand on issues,” said George Ranney, a co-chair of CHANGE Illinois! and President and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020. “Some may be afraid they will lose votes and others afraid their supporters will expect them to follow through if they win the election.

“Wouldn’t it be great to turn the tables,” Ranney continued, “and make them afraid not to answer these questions?”