Senator Kirk and Congressman Dold Urge Adoption of Pending Ethics Legislation

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Begins Serving 14-Year Sentence for Public Corruption

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—March 15, 2012.  As former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich begins serving his sentence in a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado today, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representative Robert Dold (R-IL) encourage implementation of bipartisan, bicameral ethics legislation that would curb public corruption.  

“Let the sentencing for Governor Blagojevich be a clear warning to all elected officials that public corruption of any form will not be tolerated. Illinois families have long suffered from an estimated $500 million hidden corruption tax,” a Kirk spokesperson said.  “We need to make sure our laws help federal prosecutors crack down on public corruption and restore integrity to Illinois.”  

Congressman Robert Dold, from Illinois’ 10th District, released the following statement: “Today we are seeing justice served for Governor Blagojevich and the people of Illinois. I am pleased that the final version of the STOCK Act included a provision that Senator Kirk, Congressman Quigley and I worked on in the Senate and House to ensure that taxpayer-funded Congressional pensions do not go to convicted felons in the future like the former Governor.  Now we need to continue to focus on the important issues of the day and work together to spur the economy and stop wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars.” 

Several pieces of legislation to address public corruption await action in the Senate and House of Representatives

Honest Services and Pension Forfeiture provisions within the STOCK Act

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act), which passed overwhelmingly in both chambers this February, included several ethics provisions championed by Senator Kirk and Representative Dold. 

In June 2011, Senator Kirk and Representative Dold announced the introduction of bicameral, bipartisan legislation (S. 1261) aimed at eliminating the Congressional pensions of Members of Congress convicted of committing a public corruption crime while serving as any elected official. The bill expands upon the existing, outdated law that allows former Members of Congress to keep their pensions if they commit public corruption crimes in another elected office. The measure was agreed to by a voice vote as an amendment to the

STOCK Act on February 2, 2012. 

In May 2011, Sen. Kirk and Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the Public Officials Accountability Act, S.995 and H.R. 1973, which would prevent elected officials from using their office for personal gain by fixing the honest services statute. The honest services provision previously addressed two forms of fraud by public officials: (1) bribes and kickbacks, and (2) undisclosed conflicts of interest resulting in personal financial gain. However, in 2010 the United States Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the statute, wiping out the second category. The Kirk-Quigley legislation would very explicitly define all the terms, so as to remove any constitutional ambiguity that the former statutes created. This legislation will restore decades of Congressional intent and law enforcement tools to ban lawmakers from using taxpayer dollars to further their own careers or pocketbooks. 

This legislation was later incorporated into pending House and Senate bills S. 401 and H.R. 2572. The Senate adopted the measure as part of an amendment cosponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) with overwhelming support on February 2. The provision was not included in the House-passed version of the STOCK Act. On February 28, Senator Kirk and Representative Quigley sent a letter to Senate and House leadership requesting the amendment be included in any final legislation brought forward. 

State Ethics Law Protection Act (SELPA):

The State Ethics Law Protection Act (SELPA) allows states such as Illinois to ban pay-to-play practices in highway contracting. In 2008, the Illinois General Assembly unanimously passed a comprehensive anti-pay-to-play bill, House Bill 824. The bill made it illegal for any entity holding or bidding on state contracts worth $50,000 or more to donate to the campaign fund of a statewide officeholder who has influence over the awarding of contracts. The bill was passed unanimously by the Illinois General Assembly and had strong support from good government advocates, including then- Senator Barack Obama. Other states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, have passed similar measures.

Shortly after the passage of Illinois H.B. 824, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) threatened to withhold funding for transportation projects due to its interpretation of federal contract bidding requirements. Under threat of losing out on millions of federal highway dollars, Illinois was forced to water down H.B. 824 to exclude transportation projects, effectively creating a loophole for pay-to-play activities.

The SELPA measure, introduced by Congressman Quigley and cosponsored by then-Congressman Kirk, passed the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress. In the 112th Congress, Senator Kirk and Congressman Quigley re-introduced SELPA as H.R. 1924 in the House and S. 994 in the Senate. 

Source: kirk.senate.gov