Lots of talk about government ethics, but little action

Lots of talk about government ethics, but little action

In an interview Wednesday with the Associated Press, Gov. Rod Blagojevich heaped praise on his administration for its openness and commitment to ethics reform.

"I've said before and I'll say again: We do things right," the governor said. "I'm very proud of my administration and how we operate, and proud of my campaign and how my campaign operates."

At another point he said, "What's really interesting is, you look at those exit polls on issues of cleaning up government and ethics and corruption, by 2-to-1 they elected me. The people get it. They get it."

But do the governor and his No. 1 ally in the Legislature, Senate President Emil Jones, get it? They talk a good game but their actions show nothing but contempt for ethics reforms.

There's a remarkable piece of legislation, House Bill 1, that has been stuck in the Senate Rules Committee since April. It's remarkable not for what it would do – impose restrictions on big campaign contributors who do business with the state – but for the depth of support it has in the Senate. Forty-five of the 59 senators are cosponsors of the legislation – more than three-quarters of the Senate! – but Jones has kept it quarantined in committee.

Recent disclosures by the Chicago Sun-Times show why Jones may be reluctant to embrace ethics reforms: his stepson owns a company that has won more than $700,000 in state subcontracts. And unlike other contracts with state government, subcontracts are not disclosed on the state's Web site. Another ethics bill, also stuck in a Senate committee, would end that practice.

So what's Jones' line now? "I have no problem with the public knowing everything," he said.

Good, then why don't the Senate president and his pal, Rod "We do things right" Blagojevich, get behind tough disclosure laws on elected officials, lobbyists, contractors and subcontractors? Why don't they limit no-bid state contracts? Why don't they open up ethics commission investigations? Let the sun shine on Illinois government. As Jones said, let the public know everything.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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