Lobbying by sitting Illinois lawmakers under scrutiny

A federal bribery charge against an Illinois state legislator has led to questions about whether lawmakers should be allowed to lobby other units of government.

Posted: Nov 11, 2019 1:36 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A federal bribery charge against an Illinois state legislator has led to questions about whether lawmakers should be allowed to lobby other units of government.

The federal bribery charge last month against former Rep. Luis Arroyo laid bare the potential ethics tangle. Most states allow lawmakers to lobby outside state government, and Illinois isn’t even the least restrictive. Eighteen states, including California, have no restrictions on such lobbying.

Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, is accused of attempting to bribe a senator to support his plan to legalize slot-like “sweepstakes” gambling machines. At the time, Arroyo was registered as a Chicago lobbyist, representing a company that operates the games before the City Council.

Such an arrangement can pit loyalties against each other, said David Melton, interim executive director of Reform for Illinois.

“There’s an obvious potential for log-rolling in terms of trading favors back and forth — and a dereliction of their exercising good judgment as to what or should or should not be policy — and log-rolling in terms of edging over into explicit bribery,” Melton said.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker promised a “comprehensive” ethics-reform review, including a potential ban on legislators lobbying and called the circumstances generated by Arroyo’s dual roles are “challenging and problematic.” No one answered a phone call placed Friday to the office of Arroyo’s attorney.

House Republicans have already produced a package of legislation, including a ban on lobbying by active legislators and a revamp of annually required statements of economic interest. Those forms’ broadly worded questions aimed at unearthing an officeholder’s financial situation and potential conflicts currently allow for answers of “None” or “N/A.”

Several members of the Illinois House and Senate are registered to lobby in Chicago — including Senate President John Cullerton, although reports filed by the Chicago Democrat show no lobbying activity since 2016. The reports are easily accessible online.

Illinois is not alone in allowing lawmakers to lobby. In Maryland, for example, it’s not unusual for a sitting legislator to be a registered lobbyist before Congress or in nearby Virginia. Lobbying lawmakers who face a potential conflict must disclose it in writing and may seek advice from the Legislature’s ethics counsel, said Delegate Kathleen Dumais, co-chairwoman of the Maryland Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. She said a legislator who lobbies on Capitol Hill and faces a later vote on the same issue in the Statehouse should request permission to be excused from the vote.

One problem facing policymakers is definition. Chicago defines a lobbyist as anyone who represents someone else “to influence any legislative or administrative action.”

For Democratic Sen. Elgie Sims, a Chicago attorney, it means representing his law firm’s clients who have contracts with the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Transit Authority.

For Rep. Jaime Andrade, it means using his expertise in building permits and zoning-amendment language honed during two decades as a Chicago City Council aide and legislative assistant before joining the Legislature in 2014.

“I’m a paper-pusher,” said the Democrat who first registered as a lobbyist while seeking income during the 2015-17 state budget crisis which halted lawmakers’ pay. “I know what the holdup is, and I know what the process is. People are overwhelmed by the process and the time it takes.”

Some ethics advocates suggest prohibiting legislators from earning any outside income. Others counter that would discourage talented people from seeking office. The base legislative salary is $69,464.

Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, last registered as a Chicago lobbyist in 2015 when he worked for a law firm that required more active intervention with city officials on clients’ behalf. His new law firm represents dozens of gambling interests, and this year he relinquished his involvement in legislation to legalize sports betting after facing criticism, even though he had sought an opinion from the House ethics officer, who had approved his participation.

“There will be a conversation in the very near future about what lobbying entails at the state and local level and the times when, as an attorney or as a member of another profession, you’re required to register because you’re meeting with a government official,” Zalewski said. “It’s all getting harder and harder to navigate.”

Terre Haute
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 83°
Robinson
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 85°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 82°
Rockville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 84°
Casey
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 81°
Brazil
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 83°
Marshall
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 83°
Heat Advisory This Afternoon
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1415572

Reported Deaths: 25853
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook56308410559
DuPage937531321
Will781251042
Lake692061027
Kane60105816
Winnebago34719524
Madison32433533
St. Clair30073526
McHenry29590299
Peoria23726346
Champaign21601158
Sangamon19672245
McLean18864194
Tazewell17508308
Rock Island15398329
Kankakee14754224
Kendall1349999
LaSalle12968254
Macon11193215
DeKalb10286122
Vermilion10247154
Adams9635128
Williamson8165138
Whiteside7249174
Boone694280
Ogle629884
Grundy605879
Clinton591993
Coles5872101
Knox5735157
Jackson546465
Henry516070
Macoupin498790
Livingston494394
Woodford492683
Stephenson488186
Franklin487879
Effingham483274
Marion4782118
Jefferson4668123
Monroe452394
Randolph432587
Lee424054
Morgan413793
Fulton410959
Logan407366
Christian394875
Bureau386187
Montgomery385274
Iroquois330168
Perry328662
Fayette326856
McDonough305751
Jersey279552
Saline272057
Douglas263736
Union250241
Lawrence245027
Shelby236138
Crawford219026
Bond213624
Cass210727
Carroll204937
Pike201453
Ford194950
Hancock194132
Clark190734
Wayne190153
Warren186750
Jo Daviess183524
Richland181740
White180626
Edgar179842
Washington169625
Moultrie168128
Mason164247
De Witt161429
Piatt156314
Johnson155416
Clay155043
Greene153534
Mercer152434
Wabash148612
Massac143740
Cumberland131119
Menard128412
Jasper116918
Marshall110819
Hamilton90316
Schuyler8147
Brown8116
Pulaski7437
Stark66425
Edwards63612
Calhoun5422
Henderson53414
Gallatin5064
Scott5051
Putnam4943
Alexander48911
Hardin39612
Pope3404
Unassigned662433
Out of IL150

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 768624

Reported Deaths: 13993
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1055891807
Lake569801031
Allen43032699
St. Joseph37344568
Hamilton37335426
Elkhart29783470
Tippecanoe23503230
Vanderburgh23240405
Porter19580327
Johnson18843392
Hendricks18089323
Madison13575347
Clark13552198
Vigo12869256
LaPorte12578225
Monroe12575178
Delaware11155198
Howard10693237
Kosciusko9792124
Hancock8761150
Bartholomew8274157
Warrick8084157
Floyd8043182
Grant7378181
Wayne7239201
Boone7211105
Morgan6924143
Marshall6345117
Dubois6283118
Cass6096112
Dearborn602178
Noble600890
Henry5958111
Jackson517277
Shelby511598
Lawrence4928127
Gibson463696
Montgomery459292
DeKalb456785
Clinton456055
Harrison454077
Huntington417882
Whitley416745
Steuben411260
Miami406073
Jasper401655
Knox388691
Putnam385762
Wabash370384
Adams353856
Ripley351971
Jefferson343487
White340154
Daviess3089100
Wells304081
Greene295185
Decatur292693
Fayette286564
Posey282635
Scott281058
LaGrange277772
Clay274949
Washington254637
Randolph247783
Jennings239749
Spencer238731
Fountain235850
Starke229959
Owen222959
Sullivan221643
Fulton208945
Jay203032
Carroll197722
Orange191756
Perry189939
Vermillion181144
Rush177627
Tipton173347
Franklin172535
Parke155916
Pike142534
Blackford138032
Pulaski123748
Newton123336
Benton109715
Brown106243
Crawford105816
Martin92515
Warren87915
Switzerland8378
Union73610
Ohio58411
Unassigned0429