Dupage Policy Journal

Dupage Policy Journal

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Wehrli questions panelists at committee hearing on ethics about lobbying


By Kyla Asbury | Jan 21, 2020


State Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) questioned panelists during a joint committee hearing discussing ethics and lobbying reform on Wednesday.

Wehrli asked panelists for each body of government how they defined a lobbyist and what kinds of regulations they already had in place.

Steve Berlin, the executive director for the Chicago Board of Ethics, told Wehrli that the city's penalties were draconian.

"A lobbyist had five days from the beginning of lobbying to register with the city and if they don't, they are fined $1,000 a day every day until they do," Berlin said.

Wehrli disagreed.

"I'd argue that's not draconian," he said.

Wehrli said when talking about lobbyists, it's important to hear from all sides and not just those who regulate them.

"How are they defined? What relative is considered immediate family? What are the penalties? How do we enforce regulations on the books at each level right now?" Wehrli asked. "I think the first step we need to take is to define a lobbyist."

Wehrli also questioned how different levels of government dealt with a corporation that registered as a lobbyist.

"Do the 50 people under the corporation have to register individually?"

Paul Thompson, the inspector with the Secretary of State's Office, said if a corporation registered, the individuals working for that company did not need to register individually.

The advocates spoke about different regulations that are already in place, like a registration ordinance in Cook County wherein lobbyists must register throughout the year and file reports when necessary, and a multi-tiered approach the state has with the Secretary of State's Office.

Wehrli said the scandals that had happened in the past should have brought about ethics reform already.

During the committee hearing, Marie Dillon with the Better Government Association spoke about the corruption and loss of faith Illinoisans have in politicians – something Republicans have spoken about a lot recently.

"This is a sobering moment for Illinois," she said. "A federal investigation has caused the people to recoil. This should not be labeled a lobbyist problem. These are elected officials moonlighting as lobbyists. They're do-nothing lobbyists."

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