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Don’t run away from political reform too fast

Updated: July 6, 2012 10:47AM

SuperPACs, those invasive political action committees that emerged after a U.S Supreme Court decision in 2010, are dramatically changing the political landscape.

Their ability to spend limitless dollars to support a candidate is wreaking havoc in the presidential election. They threaten to do the same in state and local elections, including in Illinois.

But the solution to SuperPACS dreamed up by Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly is the wrong one. Gov. Pat Quinn should reject a bill that would roll back campaign contribution limits when SuperPACs, or independent expenditure committees, spend heavily in state and local elections.

This bill would undermine the very notion of campaign limits in Illinois. Those caps have been around for just 17 months, passed during a spasm of high-minded reform after the Legislature tossed out corrupt Gov. Rod Blagojevich. We haven’t had a chance to gauge the impact of the caps on even one full election cycle.

Rather than gut contribution limits in a somewhat shortsighted effort to protect candidates in the November elections, let’s see if less dramatic remedies might do the trick. A state-created task force on campaign finance reform is in place and should take this on.

As a starting point, the non-profit Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has identified concrete ways to neutralize the potentially corrupting influences of SuperPACs. These include sharply defining what constitutes an “independent” committee and imposing stiff penalties on committees that cross the line.

At a time when two former governors are sitting in prison, we urge Quinn not to sign off on a law that could erode the very real reforms Illinois has made in the last few years.

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