WE ARE ILLINOIS
Quinn got donation before veto
By Ray Long and Rick Pearson - Chicago Tribune
Only a month before Gov. Pat Quinn rewrote legislation to help the Teamsters at the McCormick Place convention center, the labor group gave the Democratic governor $75,000 in political donations, his campaign acknowledged Thursday.
Quinn's campaign said the donations were part of the union's longstanding support for the governor and unrelated to his proposed changes in a reform bill aimed at making Chicago more competitive for trade-show business. The governor asserted his amendatory veto would have strengthened the bill, but lawmakers quickly rejected his changes Thursday in Springfield.
Still, the proximity of the donations to Quinn's actions prompted comparisons to the "pay-to-play" culture in state government that he vowed to reform when he replaced the disgraced Rod Blagojevich last year. It was the second fundraising controversy in a year for Quinn, who is seeking election to a full term as his former running mate, Blagojevich, faces trial on corruption charges.
In this case, it was legislation designed to make McCormick Place more hospitable to trade shows by reorganizing its governance and changing union work rules at the convention center. Quinn received donations of $50,000 and $25,000 from the Teamsters on April 23, his campaign said, two weeks before lawmakers sent the legislation to the governor.
For weeks, Quinn deliberated over the measure before using his amendatory veto power Wednesday to rewrite the legislation. His changes would have cleared the way for the Teamsters to absorb a smaller union at the convention center. The carpenters union, the other powerhouse at McCormick Place, also would have been able to absorb a smaller union.
Quinn has said reducing the number of unions that exhibitors have to deal with would make McCormick Place more competitive with rivals such as Las Vegas and Orlando. His campaign also noted his rewrite of the legislation kept intact work-rule changes that the Teamsters and other leading unions at McCormick Place opposed.
"I do want to stress over and over again: I've made this bill stronger, better. I've reformed it completely -not halfway," Quinn told reporters about his rewrite.
Quinn campaign spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said any assertion that there was a connection between the money and Quinn's action on the bill was "completely offensive."
"The Teamsters have a longstanding history with the governor" and it was the first labor group to endorse him in the Feb. 2 Democratic primary, she said.
Of the $127,612 Quinn had raised previously from various Teamsters locals, only $15,000 was donated before he became governor at the end of January 2009, state records show. Donations of $50,000 were made in October and in January of this year by the Teamsters Volunteers in Politics, the political arm of Joint Council 25, an umbrella group of Teamster locals.
The president of Joint Council 25, John Coli, found himself embroiled in a previous fundraising controversy when he was named in 2003 by Blagojevich to the Illinois tollway board. After reports of Teamster donations of $100,000 and a potential conflict with union workers at the tollway, Coli withdrew his name.
Teamsters officials did not return calls for comment.
During last year's spring legislative session, Quinn blamed a "naive" aide for trying to sell interest groups "face time" with him in exchange for hosting $15,000 fundraising events.
Quinn's Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, quickly sought to make the Teamsters' donations a campaign issue.
"I think it takes us back, unfortunately, to a day of the pay-to-play policies of Gov. Blagojevich and Gov. Quinn, and I think it's disturbing, not only to me, but to the people of Illinois," Brady said.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune via Bloomington Pantagraph
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