James D. Nowlan, Samuel K. Grove, and Richard J. Winkel, Kr. Illinois Politics: A Citizen’s Guilde. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.
Illinois has a history of strong businesses with money influencing politics.
Illinois, in 2007, was the state whose demographic and economic levels, such as racial composition, educational attainment, industrial mix, and percent of immigrants, were the closest, of all states, to the national average.
Illinois has a mix of political activists who seek individual gain (who favor patronage and influence peddling), who have strong moral beliefs (who seek to reform government), and traditionalists who seek to preserve the existing social order and protect those with influence.
Illinois’s development was strongly influenced by its locations providing it transportation advantages along the Ohio River, on the Great Lakes as serviced by the Erie Canal, and rail connections. Members of Congress, including Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, convinced the Federal government to give land grants to private railroad interests. The 705 miles of Illinois Central Railroad made it the longest private rail route at that time. By 1875, Illinois had over 7,000 miles of rail.
Northern Illinois saw the settlement of a number of mostly low income people of British and Scots-Irish descent from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee who disliked the influence of local British aristocrats.
The next influx of Illinois settlers was mostly from New England and Middle Atlantic states during the 1830s. They settled primarily where farmland was good.
The Republican Party was the prominent political party in Illinoins from the 1860s to the 1930s.
Chicago with one million people was the second most populous city in the U.S. in 1890. Chicago increased to 3.4 million in 1939 and hit its greatest population of 3.6 million in 1945. As car ownership doubled form 1945 to 1950, city residents began moving to suburbs.
In 2007, 50.1% of Illinois voters considered themselves Democrats, 33.3% Republicans, and 16.6% Independents. Chicago was 75.6% Democrats and 8.4% Republicans. The suburbs have been increased in population and political power while Downstate has been decreasing in political strength.
In 1987, Downstate paid 33% of state taxes and obtained 47% of state spending while Chicago residents paid 21% of state taxes and received 25% of state spending.
There have been numerous political corruption cases in Illinois political history. In the 1890s, almost all Chicago Aldermen were bribed for$50,000 or less to award franchises as sought by Charles Yerkes. Yerkes also bribed several state legislators.
People seeking to get the legislature to make U.S. Rep. William Lorimer a U.S.Senator gave $100,000 total to at least 40 legislators. Lorimer was later expelled from the Senate for the bribery.
Half of Chicago Police officers during Prohibition were bootleggers, according to Police Chief Charles Fitzsmorris.
Gov. George Ryan was convicted of racketeering and other charges in 2006. Previously, Gov. Otto Kerner was convicted of crimes in office. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for allegedly attempting to award a U.S. Senate seat for illegal consideration in 2008.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan controls much fund raising from interest groups and then disperses campaign contributions to favorable legislative candidates, controls all Democratic staff placements, and controls when legislative votes are held and amendments are considered. Madigan disbursed $5.7 million in campaign funds from July 2005 to December 2006.
Illinois ended the “straight ballot” where a voter could vote for all political party’s candidates. This helped move candidates to campaign more individually than as part of a political party.
While political parties have relatively less influence in Illinois than in other states, interest groups appear to be relatively more influential. In 2007, there were 1,726 interest groups registered as represented by 2,200 lobbyists. The Illinois Rifle Association is known for being influential over gun laws. The Illinois State Medical Society is known for its effectiveness on health care laws.
Several contribute to candidates in hopes of receiving government contracts or to obtain desirable government actions. This is known as “pay to play”. Negative press led in 2008 led to a law prohibiting a holder of a public worth over $50,000 from contributing to the office that awards the contract. Otherwise, Illinois has no limitations on how much individuals, corporations, businesses, and incorporated unions may contribute to state political candidates.
Illinois has 10 TV markets. In 2006, Rod Blagojevich aired 22,109 TV commercials costing $18.1 million to defeat Judy Baar Topinka, who aired 4,638 commercials costing $4.6 million.
In 2007, the date of the Illinois Presidential Primary was moved to February’s first Tuesday. This was to make Illinois an early and influential state in the Presidential race.
The Green Party obtained official party status in 2006. It will last four years or longer if it’s candidate for Governor obtains 5% or more of the vote in 2010.
The Illinois legislature has 118 House members and 59 Senators. This is set by the state Constitution.
Legislative redistricting is handled by a commission of four Democrats and four Republicans who must agree on a plan by July 1. It is believed this commission will seek an agreement before a ninth member is named by the Illinoins Supreme Court randomly choosing between one Democrat and one Republican. The Commission then has a October 5 deadline.
Illinois in recent years has seen several open primaries with weak political party operations where a winner emerges from a multicandidate race with little resources remaining who then loses the general election.
The Illinois State Board of Elections believes 77% of those eligible to vote as of 2006 were registered to vote. Of those eligible, 48.6% voted in 2006, or 37% of those eligible to vote did so.
Democratic Presidential candidates have carried Illinois every Presidential election from 1952 on.
State House members have two year terms. Most State Senators have four year terms except at the start of a 10 year redistricting all Senate seats are elected in the first even numbered year with about half elected to two years terms and half elected to four terms,
The legislature historically and seem likely, unless there is a dramatic change in public attitudes, to consist of many safe legislative seats and competitive legislative seats where party control of the legislature is determined by these outcomes. Many partisan legislative staff leave their state jobs to work on campaign campaigns during campaign times.
The authors note that winning and obtaining power, and not policies or making major changes in how government acts, have been the main goals in most Illinois elections over the past 40 years.
Illinois became a sate in 1818 with a Constitution that did not prohibit slavery.
The authors see the Illinois legislature as very partisan and guided by making deals on bills where keeping and using power is more important than is ideology on policies. Legislators are mostly full time. The legislature has 700 staffers. About 9,000 bills are typically introduced in a two year session. The budget is due for approval by May 31. Missing the deadline create an overtime session. The legislature usually begins meeting in October or November to consider whether to override vetoes.
The Speaker’s office issues a list of bills with arrows indicating if the Speakers approves, disapproves, or is neutral towards a bill.
Legislators receive about $80,000 each to rent, staff, and supply a district office.
Caucus leaders, over the past 15 years, have designated a legislator as the “budgeteer” who changes the Governor’s proposed budget into a budget favored by caucus leaders.
A conference committee can make large changes to the bills before it.
Since the 1980s, much of the legislative process has been led by what is known as the “Four Tops”, who are the leaders of both parties in both chambers. These leaders control most campaign fundraising for all legislative races and assign all partisan staff. Many legislative staff thus are expert at campaign work.
The Governor has the power of line item veto and reduction veto, where the Governor may lower amounts of appropriated funds. Any type of veto may be overridden by three fifths of legislators in both chambers.
The legislative process can lead to struggles. Governor James Thompson vetoed numerous bills. Speaker Michael Madigan then held up votes on bills Thompson wanted.
The Illinois legislature allows a member to vote “present” instead of voting “yes” or “no”.
IN 2008, Governor Blagojevich called 16 special sessions as he fought with the legislature on the budget. He vetoed projects sought by House Democrats and Senate Republicans, the minority parties in each chamber, to make his budget veto proof. He shifted the vetoed funds to expanding health care, although it was not as much money as he wanted. The Health and Family Services Department attempted to expand a health care program to 147,000, even though there were insufficient funds to pay for the expansion. The courts struck down the expansion.
Blagojevich ran as a populist challenging the political system. His first term had success in passing a stronger ethics bill, raising the minimum wage, creating gay rights, creating health care for all children, and establishing universal preschool for three and four year olds. In his second term, he sought to increase business taxes by $7 billion while keeping sales and income taxes the same. The FBI wiretapped him and overheard him attempting to seek a deal for an appointment to a U.S. Senate vacancy.
Frank Lowden was Governor from 1917-21. He was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 1920 where a deadlock convention eventually nominated Warren Harding.
Richard Oglivie was Governor from 1969-73. He created the Burean of the Budget as well as the Environmental Protection Agency before the Federal government created one.
James Thompson was the longest serving Governor elected to four terms and served from 1977 to 1990. He was known for hiring good managers and avoiding scandals. His use of patronage, though, was stuck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for being too extreme. Thompson was not a reformer and continued past systems of awarding contracts to friends, according to the authors.
Illinois has three courts statewide with distinct jurisdictions. There are circuit courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is elected from five districts with one district, Cook County, electing three. They are elected to 10 year terms and run in partisan elections.
Several Judges have been convicted of bribery. Judicial candidates rated “unqualified” by the Bar Association have been elected. A judicial race once resulted in both sides spending $9.3 million total. Special interest groups were concerned over issues such as torts and medical malpractice.
Illinois had 6,039 local governments in 2005 followed by Pennsylvania with 5,032. The state gave local governments, not counting school districts,. $7.6 billion in 2007.
Illinois in 2008 spent $11,428 per pupil on education. This was the 14th highest average among states.
State funds for Illinois colleges, not counting student tuition assistance, decreased from $2.94 billion in 2002 to $2.62 billion in 2006.
Robert Manville, Illinois Budget Director, claims budgeting is easy: 1.) determine how much money there is, 2.) estimate incoming receipts, 3.) decide how much money one wishes to have at the end of the budget year, 4.) add 1 and 2 and subtract 3, and 5.) allocate the remainder to programs. Of course, the actual process is more involved.
In 2007, property taxes raised $21 billion. 60% went to schools, 16% went to municipalities, 12% to special districts, 8% to counties, and 3% to townships.