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New group aims to reform Illinois state politics

Bradley administrator appointed to committee that will improve Springfield

A new effort to clean up Illinois politics is underway, and it will have a Bradley connection.
Brad McMillan was recently appointed to serve on the Illinois Reform Commission, a 15-member committee created by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to reform Springfield.
“This is a really unique and rare opportunity to make significant change,” McMillan, the executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service, said. “It can be done, it needs to be done and we need to strike while the iron’s hot and the public sentiment is so strong that we need reform in Illinois.”
The IRC was created by Quinn in light of the recent scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who, among other things, is being accused of trying to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat.
According to its Web site, the IRC has an ambitious goal – to supply Quinn with a written report within 100 days of Jan. 16, the day the IRC was created. The report will outline the recommendations to Quinn.
The committee is chaired by Patrick Collins, a former U.S. Attorney who tried and won the conviction of former Gov. George Ryan.
McMillan said one of the most significant actions that could be taken by the commission would be to submit a plan to reform campaign finance laws.
“We would limit the amount of money that companies, individuals and [political] parties could give to state candidates,” he said.
Another possible action the IRC may take would be to submit a proposal changing the way representative districts are drawn in Illinois.
Right now, representative districts are approved by the state legislature and are often drawn to protect the incumbent politician, McMillan said.
“There is one congressman who lives in Rock Island, and his district goes down the Mississippi … goes over to Springfield and all the way to Decatur,” he said. “You ask the average person, does that make sense? Is that good government? Is that the best way to represent the people? They would say absolutely not. So why do we do it?”
The commission could face some difficulties in accomplishing its goals, McMillan said.
“There are certain powers that be that will not want the status quo to change,” he said. “The Democratic and Republican leadership funnels hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside state legislative districts into targeted campaigns.”
They also bring in their own political people who many times put together false or misleading advertising, McMillan said.
“These outside influences are not good for the political process and does not promote good government,” he said.
Political parties giving too much money to candidates is a problem, McMillan said.
Prior to coming to Bradley, McMillan worked for 10 years as then-U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood’s chief of staff. He is joined on the IRC by a former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, the president of DePaul University and the head coach of the Northwestern University football team, along with 11 other members from varying backgrounds.
Also on the IRC is the Rev. Scott Willis. Willis is the father of six children who were killed in a car accident that was eventually linked to the license-for-bribes scandal, which led to Ryan’s conviction and imprisonment.
“The Illinois Reform Commission is made up of a very talented, diverse group of independent-minded people,” McMillan said.
The IRC will meet every other week until April, and it will meet at Bradley on March 30. Time and location are to be announced.
Other meeting times and more information at www.reformillinoisnow.org.