Self-interest vs. public interest

When elected officials take employment with private interests they boosted while in public office, it's fair to ask for whom they were really working.

One of the public's worst, and most legitimate, fears about their legislators, no matter whether state or federal, is that they represent narrow political interests rather than the broad public interest.

One can call that view unduly cynical or, considering this is Illinois, a realistic assessment of how politics works.

The cynics gained a little more ammunition recently with the news that State Rep. Marlow Colvin, a Democrat from Chicago, resigned his elective office to go to work as head lobbyist for utility giant ComEd. Colvin's decision to become a lobbyist comes shortly after another former House member, Kevin McCarthy, an Orland Park Democrat, went to work lobbying for ComEd.

ComEd hired them because, as former legislators, Colvin and McCarthy will have special access to and influence with members of the Illinois House and Senate and will, as a result, be helpful in moving ComEd's legislative agenda.

It's hard to imagine that ComEd would have been interested in hiring either legislator if they had not been helpful in getting the General Assembly to pass, over Gov. Pat Quinn's veto, the so-called "smart grid" legislation that allows Illinois utilities to bypass the Illinois Commerce Commission when implementing a rate increase.

McCarthy was among the sponsors of this utility-friendly legislation in the House. While McCarthy was pushing that bill in his chamber, former state Sen. Dennis Jacobs, a Democrat from Moline, was among a small army of lobbyists working to pass the legislation, and Jacobs' son, state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, was the chief legislative sponsor in the Senate.

Readers may recall that Sen. Mike Jacobs became so angry when one of his colleagues questioned the propriety of this obvious conflict of interest that fisticuffs ensued.

There ought to be a law that prevents such cozy political/professional relationships. There will, of course, be no law. Our legislators aren't going to limit their professional opportunities.

But Colvin's move, which was preceded by McCarthy's move, which was preceded by the Jacobses' maneuvers, once again raises the same old questions about how business is done in Springfield and for whom.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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