- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 3, 2014

The (Joliet) Herald-News

Put more teeth in campaign finance laws

Money seems to play a bigger role in political campaigns than it ever has before. Yet the state of Illinois places few restrictions on political donations and seems to take little interest in making candidates comply with contribution disclosure rules.

The most recent example is the case of Eric Kellogg, whose campaign committee only recently released three years’ worth of reports on donations to his campaign fund.

Kellogg’s campaign committee might be the most blatant offender, but his three-year delinquency - which likely would have continued indefinitely were it not for the news coverage - is indicative of just how little effort goes into enforcing campaign disclosure laws.

Our state’s laws on political contributions are fairly loose - individuals may not contribute more than $5,300 to a single candidate, businesses max out at $10,500, political committees and political action committees can give as much as $52,600. Candidates and their families can make unlimited contributions to their campaign committee.

Campaign disclosure laws need not be draconian - that might actually discourage some from running for office - but they also should not be so toothless that they can be flouted with impunity.

Public exposure of neglect in filing disclosures, either through news reporting or other means, can create public pressure for something to be done. But another powerful incentive for people to follow the rules is to have real penalties in place if the rules are broken. After an act of the state legislature, Illinois took similar action in regard to the Freedom of Information Act, moves that were done in response to a culture of corruption that had grown in state politics and led to the state’s two previous governors being convicted of federal crimes.

Knowing who supports local and statewide candidates for office is another step toward open and honest government. Strengthening the means of enforcement of campaign finance disclosure laws would be a logical step in making that possible.


February 28, 2014

Moline Dispatch

D.C. flight win for all

Two Quad-Cities area lawmakers are working to convince their colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly to back a state-funded subsidy that would bring a nonstop flight from Moline to Washington, D.C.

It shouldn’t be a tough sell, given the host of benefits to the community, state, region — even the nation — of a direct flight to Dulles International Airport from the Quad City International Airport.

The incentive to establish such a service here is contained in a pair of bills sponsored by state Reps. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. They would amend the I-FLY Act to raise the maximum grant ceiling from $1 million to $1.5 million to attract and retain air service, extend the grant from two years to three years, and implement the steps necessary to deliver the money to the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County.

Local businesses and community leaders have long sought a nonstop flight from Moline to Washington, D.C. because of the boost it would provide to the region. A direct Washington flight would be a boon to Q-C economic engines like Deere & Co., the Rock Island Arsenal and the more than 500 military contractors in our community.

That daily D.C. flight not only could be a job-creator, it could help protect the 7,700 or so jobs on the Arsenal should Washington get itchy for another round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC). Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce vice president Paul Rumler says that, when chamber members lobbied in Washington last year, they were told many installations that survived BRACs had direct air access to D.C. “It was pointed out to us that is a glaring omission in the Quad-Cities,” Mr. Rumler said.

The flights also would benefit area passengers.

Without Springfield’s help, it is highly unlikely that a daily nonstop flight to D.C. would be possible.

Rep. Verschoore believes that if he can get the bill out of committee, it will pass.

We urge him, Rep. Smiddy, Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, and Sens. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, to join together and use all of their considerable bipartisan muscle to convince leaders to move to the House and Senate floors what amounts to a relatively modest state investment with the potential to pay huge dividends locally, regionally and statewide.


February 26, 2014

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Limit animal hoarding by sharing data

The need to be loved and the desire to help others are two of humanity’s most powerful guiding forces.

They are the inspiration of great literature; they help define our lives. Both can be greatly rewarding.

But if you look at your own life, odds are pretty good that the pursuit of one or both of these things has gotten you into a spot of bother.

Taken to the extreme, of course, they can take over your life.

Take the issue of animal hoarding.

It’s easy for most of us to understand how a well-meaning person who sees an animal in distress, perhaps an animal who is likely to face euthanasia, to take the critter in.

Most of us feel we know the limits of our compassion - or at least we know when enough is enough. But for extreme animal hoarders, there is a big disconnect.

Illinois is ranked by the Animal Legal Defense Fund as having the strictest animal control laws. But one thing the organization recommends that Illinois doesn’t already do is establish a database of convicted animal abusers (including hoarders) akin to the sex offender registry.

Animal hoarding doesn’t present the clear and present danger that sex offenders do, so seeking to legislate a formal reporting process would be over the top.

But given the near guarantee that a hoarder will repeat his or her habits, it would be appropriate for law enforcement personnel to voluntarily keep tabs on convicted hoarders - and share that information with other agencies - to ensure the safety of both people and animals.


February 25, 2014

(Peoria) Journal Star

Make the best of beaten up mascot

The early reviews are in on Bradley University’s new mascot - a gargoyle named Kaboom! - and, well, judge for yourselves.

ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann, as part of his regular “Worst Persons in the Sports World” feature, started with the adjective “horrific” and made his way to Kaboom! as BU’s attempt at “terrifying children.”

OK, so Olbermann is a bitter, middle-aged man. Surely Sports Illustrated, a serious publication, would be more measured.

Ultimately SI lamented that Kaboom! - what is it with that exclamation point, anyway? - hadn’t been blown up with the pyrotechnics display that accompanied his introduction, “leaving the city of Peoria hopelessly enslaved to this demon’s despotic rule for the foreseeable future.” On the bright side, however, “Kaboom has a ways to go in order to match the sheer horror that is the Providence Friar.”

Oh, lower your blood pressure, Bradley Nation. Arguably the first rule of marketing is that if you can’t be good, then be really, really bad. When was the last time Bradley got this much national exposure? Mission accomplished.

To be sure, there can be a tendency to overthink silly things - a mascot would certainly qualify - and Bradley could stand accused of that here. And if you’re explaining, you’re losing the argument. So Bradley shouldn’t. It should instead accept the criticism with the good humor such a trivial matter deserves and run with it.

Indeed, if BU plays its cards right, Kaboom! could already be well on his way to online sensation, pop-culture-icon status, the more hideous and caricatured - he does have a passing resemblance to Count Chocula, or maybe Eddie Munster - the better.

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