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Illinois Politics

Our View: Paula Basta’s Ethics Plan is Hypocritical, Costly to Taxpayers

Our View: All candidates for elected office should follow two golden rules when they propose reforms: one, avoid exposing yourself to the charge of hypocrisy; and two, avoid costing taxpayers more money.

Illinois Democratic state representative candidate Paula Basta recently violated both.

On Valentine’s Day, Basta, who is challenging appointed State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) in the March 20, 2012 Democratic primary for the seat previously held by now-48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman, rolled out a 178-word legislative ethics plan or about seven tweets worth. That plan called for, among other things, the scraping of a state law that permits elected party leaders to appoint lawmakers when a vacancy occurs.

“When a vacancy occurs, allow voters to fill that vacancy rather than letting party bosses make their own appointment,” Basta states in her plan.

The problem?

Basta was among 20 individuals who sought to cozy up to the “party bosses” to win the appointment to Osterman’s seat in May 2011. Nothing seemed unethical to the long-time lesbian activist at the time.

What changed? She lost the appointment to Cassidy. There’s the hypocrisy.

Now, there is, in principle, democratic merit to Basta’s idea of allowing voters to choose a replacement lawmaker in a special election if a vacancy occurs. But the real world problem is money. Elections cost taxpayer money. Lots of money.

While Cook County per vote cost data is scarce, DuPage County taxpayers, for example, paid $4.57 per vote in the 2008 primary and $5.54 in the general election. And in 2009, a special Democratic, Republican, Green primary election for Rahm Emanuel’s former House seat brought out 4,952 and 7,778 voters in two North Side wards, the 44th and 45th respectively, which would nearly equal voter turnout in a state house district. And 7,535 voters in those two wards turned out for the special general election.

At $5 per voter, a special primary and general election for a state house lawmaker could cost taxpayers $101,325. And in 2011, four Cook County lawmakers left the House early. Under Basta’s plan, local taxpayers would have been stuck with a bill of more than $400,000 for four special elections. Granted, these are rough numbers. But you get the idea.

Meanwhile, under the current law that authorizes vacancies to be filled by appointment, the cost to taxpayers is: zero.

Cassidy is facing voters 10 months after her appointment. They will quickly render their verdict on her appointment. Basta’s hypocritical and costly “ethics” plan is not worth a tweet.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


5 Responses to “Our View: Paula Basta’s Ethics Plan is Hypocritical, Costly to Taxpayers”

  1. Illinois blows an estimate half billion dollars on shady pensions, legislative scholarships, legislative expense accounts and broad corruption. You’re concerned about 100k per special election? Gimme a break. Elected (and appointed) officials in this state suckle at the taxpayers’ teat all day.

    Posted by Brad Rossing | February 16, 2012, 10:41 AM
  2. It adds up, and no one is saying this doesn’t mean we need to tackle the bigger fiscal issues, but we shouldn’t be digging ourselves deeper as we try and climb out.

    And that’s not the only problem with this plan. Taking the time for a special election, when an election is usually right around the corner (for state reps at least), requires a lot of time (petition process, primary and general election). That leaves the community without a voice in Springfield for at least 2-3 months. Committeemen are entrusted by the voters with the power to appoint representation when circumstances arise- This provides public involvement in who makes the appointments.

    Posted by Peter S. | February 16, 2012, 11:39 PM
  3. “Basta was among 20 individuals who sought to cozy up to the “party bosses” to win the appointment to Osterman’s seat in May 2011. Nothing seemed unethical to the long-time lesbian activist at the time.”

    Clearly Mr Ormsby was not at this event. I was. Ronan (one of those “party bosses”) sent out an e-mail inviting people interested in the job to forward their information/resume. More than 20 people did. How is that “cozying up”?! Each of those folks had less than 3 minutes to make a statement. The disrespect showed to most of these people by the three committeemen was appalling. They talked among themselves as speakers were at the podium and paid little attention. O’Conner and Ronen each even left the room at some point while candidates gave their presentations. But when Cassidy’s turn came the three lit up with smiles. They sat at rapt attention and applauded wildly.

    It was clear who was the anointed one.

    I felt they had used these people to make it seem like there was some kind of public process at work here. It was a sham. Afterwards I approached Ms. Basta and told her that if she ran in this election that I would volunteer for her and I have. Paula Basta gives me and other voters a chance to have a voice in this district…for a change!

    Posted by Anne Sullivan | February 20, 2012, 10:11 PM
  4. Anne,

    Apparently, you were not looking for me at the meeting. Then again, I have an utterly forgettable face.

    Thanks for reading.

    David Ormsby

    Posted by David Ormsby | February 20, 2012, 11:14 PM


  1. Pingback: Basta Releases Ten Point Ethics Pledge | A-Ville Daily - February 16, 2012

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