Legislative Inspector General calls bipartisan Illinois ethics bill a ‘mixed bag’

Chicago News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Republicans and Democrats say Springfield needs to tighten ethics rules. This session, lawmakers reached agreement on a serious of reforms. But outside groups and the Springfield watchdog call the change weak.

Springfield Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope spoke out about the General Assembly’s bipartisan ethics bill and called it a “mixed bag.” Some reforms will aid her work, others will make her job more difficult.

The bill limits the IG’s jurisdiction to conduct related to government service and employment.

Pope points to the 2018 investigation into former Representative Nick Sauer. An ex-girlfriend alleged he created a fake Instagram account and posted private photos after their breakup. Under the bill, if the alleged revenge porn conduct was done on a personal computer on personal time, Pope would not be able to act.

“In my opinion that would be considered conduct unbecoming a legislator but the LIG under this new act would not be able to investigate unless it was conducted on a state computer,” Carol Pope said.

Pope also says she can’t open an investigation unless a lawmaker files a complaint. In other words, she can’t just act on her own.

“I think that the public would think that if there’s public allegations contained in the media about a legislator that the LIG should be able to investigate that,” Carol Pope said.

The ethics legislation also requires lawmakers disclose more information about potential conflicts of interest and prohibits a former lawmaker from lobbying the General Assembly for six months.

The six-month ban would be the shortest in the nation. CHANGE Illinois, a political reform group, slammed the bill.

“It’s more than enough to say that you should not be able to leave and then lobby your colleagues that you just worked with,” Policy director Ryan Tolley said.

The six-month ban may be even weaker than people realize. It only applies to the General Assembly of which a member served. So someone in the current General Assembly, who resigned in early January 2023, could then begin lobbying the new GA right away.

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