Kirk, Durbin, Quigley Introduce Bill to Help Illinois Fight Pay-to-Play

Bipartisan, bicameral effort ensures construction contracts are based on merit, not political connections
 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-05)  introduced legislation that would allow Illinois to more effectively fight pay-to-play contracting in state highway construction projects. The State Ethics Law Protection Act (SELPA) will prohibit the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from withholding federal funds from states that have enacted anti-pay-to-play laws. Pay-to-play is the practice of trading campaign contributions for lucrative government contracts. SELPA clarifies that anti pay-to-play laws are consistent with federal contracting requirements, ensuring projects are chosen based on merit rather than political connections and favors.
 
“For too long Illinois families have paid a hidden ‘corruption tax’ as a result of dishonest public officials,” Senator Kirk said. “This bipartisan measure shows Congress’ support for state efforts to eliminate pay-to-play politics within our public transportation projects. My hope is our bill will help return good governance and integrity to our state.”
“For too long Illinois families have paid a hidden ‘corruption tax’ as a result of dishonest public officials,” Senator Kirk said. “This bipartisan measure shows Congress’ support for state efforts to eliminate pay-to-play politics within our public transportation projects. My hope is our bill will help return good governance and integrity to our state.”
“For too long Illinois families have paid a hidden ‘corruption tax’ as a result of dishonest public officials,” Senator Kirk said. “This bipartisan measure shows Congress’ support for state efforts to eliminate pay-to-play politics within our public transportation projects. My hope is our bill will help return good governance and integrity to our state.”
 
“This bipartisan bill is common sense,” said Durbin.  “States should be empowered to root out unethical behavior not discouraged from doing so.  I am pleased to join Senators Kirk and Menendez and Congressman Quigley in introducing this legislation that will support efforts by states, including Illinois, to put an end to political favors in highway contracting.”
 
“At a time when allegations of ethics violations have become all too common, states shouldn’t be forced to choose between good government and good highways,” said Rep. Quigley. “The State Ethics Law Protection Act ensures that states have every tool at their disposal to encourage transparency and accountability and makes it clear that Congress supports their right to fight corruption, cronyism and waste. States have the right to guarantee their contracting conforms to the highest ethical standards and offers the best value to the taxpayers.” 
 
In 2008, the Illinois General Assembly unanimously passed a comprehensive anti pay-to-play bill, House Bill 824. The bill made it illegal for any entity holding or bidding on state contracts worth $50,000 or more to donate to the campaign fund of a statewide officeholder who has influence over awarding the contracts. Other states including Connecticut, New Jersey, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, have all passed laws like Illinois to root out this kind of blatant corruption.
 
Shortly after the passage of H.B. 824, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) threatened to withhold funding for transportation projects due to its interpretation of federal contract bidding requirements. Under threat of losing out on millions of federal highway dollars, Illinois was forced to water down H.B. 824 to exclude transportation projects, effectively creating a loop-hole for pay-to-play.