Letters to the Editor 4/5/18
FAIR ELECTION ACT
From questions surrounding the NRA’s use of foreign funds for election purposes to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s $50-per-night rental agreement for a Washington, D.C., townhouse that is owned by the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist, it seems that stories about money and politics are dominating our headlines. Yet our national news outlets are increasingly turning to Illinois for examples of the outsized role that money plays in our political system. Over the last month, The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today have all run stories about the eye-popping amounts that are being spent on our statewide election campaigns.
We are still more than eight months away from Election Day, and, already, our gubernatorial candidates have already spent more than $170 million on their campaigns. There are already eight House races that have exceeded $1 million, with the battle for the Republican leader’s seat about to eclipse the $4 million mark. Nowadays, it seems that if you aren’t a self-funding billionaire, you can’t hope to have a future in Illinois politics. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Right now, 13 states (plus Washington, D.C.) provide some form of public funding support to help ordinary folks run for office. When these programs are made available, the role of ordinary people in financing elections becomes more important, elected officials become much less indebted to a narrow set of funders, candidates spend more time listening to their constituents, office holders become more reflective of the community at large, and policies are more responsive to public needs and less skewed by wealthy interests.
On Wednesday, April 11, the Illinois House will consider the Fair Election Act that has already been proven to work in communities across the nation. (A version of this bill has already cleared the Illinois Senate.) It’s time to bring balance back to our system and make it easier for ordinary people to participate in our democracy.
Common Cause Illinois, driven by its members, has been organizing with several diverse community organizations in Evanston to create a public finance system. Evanston has a chance to get ahead of the issue and make a statement about what they feel democracy really looks like. Public finance reform not only keeps big money out, but brings everyday constituents into the political environment. Fair election systems have been known for getting people more politically engaged, and with lower turnout from communities of color, it’s about time we make sure that the power is put back into their hands.
Ibie Hart, Jay Young and Brian Gladstein
Common Cause Illinois
PRE-CIVIL WAR CHURCHES
The Sangamon County Historic Preservation Commission proposes to make a list of pre-Civil War church buildings in the county that are still being used for worship. The purpose is for recognition, and to honor their congregants for preserving those structures. Library and other traditional research sources are incomplete on this subject, so we are reaching out to the public to submit the names of any such churches. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.