Bipartisan measure will bar appointed officials from politicking

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Cabinet-level appointees of the Illinois governor would be barred from using their official positions to campaign for candidates under a commonsense, bipartisan measure proposed by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Senator Sam McCann (R-Plainview).

The legislation – which has been drafted and will be filed soon – reflects federal ethics rules prohibiting government employees from using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election.

“The taxpayers of Illinois want to know that professional managers, not politicians, are running the agencies that oversee such vital areas as agriculture, transportation and natural resources,” Manar said. “The federal government realized this long ago and took steps to prohibit such activity.”

The legislation was prompted by the appearance of state agency directors – including lawmakers who were appointed to cabinet-level positions by Gov. Bruce Rauner – in campaign ads endorsing specific candidates and criticizing challengers.

Nothing in current Illinois law prohibits the former lawmakers from identifying themselves as leaders of state agencies while campaigning for candidates who were appointed by Rauner to replace them in the Legislature.

McCann noted that these former lawmakers benefited from a significant pay hike and a boost in their public pensions when Rauner strategically plucked them from their legislative seats and placed them in lucrative positions overseeing state agencies.

“I am shocked by the hypocrisy of longtime former lawmakers who saw their paychecks skyrocket to six figures – compliments of an executive appointment – now publicly criticizing candidates as career politicians,” McCann said. “Tactics like these are nothing short of pay-to-play politics, and Illinois deserves better.”

The proposed legislation would apply to directors, secretaries, assistant directors, assistant secretaries, deputy directors and deputy secretaries of state agencies and departments who are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Illinois Senate.

Violations could result in fines, discipline or dismissal by the governor.

Other states have taken steps to close ethics loopholes like this. In addition, the Illinois State Police has restrictions on troopers appearing in uniform in campaign materials.

Manar said the measure is intended to strengthen Illinois’ ethics rules so that governors in the future won’t be tempted to use executive appointments to influence elections.

“Our executive branch has made great progress since the years of George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich – governors of each political party who went to prison for abusing the trust the people of Illinois placed in them,” Manar said. “I invite Gov. Rauner to support our efforts to position Illinois as a model for good government at the highest levels.”