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Obama Touts Reform In Iowa

Sen. Barack Obama today emphasized his promise to bring ethics reform to Washington as he addressed an audience in Cedar Rapids, noting the obstacles he overcame to deliver campaign finance reform to Illinois during his tenure as a state senator.

"When I arrived in Springfield a decade ago as a state Senator, people said it was too hard to take on the issue of money in politics, but I found folks on both sides of the aisle who were willing to listen, and we were finally able to pass the first major ethics reform in 25 years," Obama said, according to a version of his remarks released by his campaign staff.

Obama did win plaudits for those efforts, which were described in the Post in February.

"What impressed me about him was his ability in working with people of the opposite party," Mike Lawrence, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, told The Post. "He had definite ideas about what ought to be contained in a campaign finance reform measure, but he also was willing to recognize that he was probably not going to get everything he wanted."

Some good-government groups called it the most ambitious campaign reform in nearly 25 years. But not everyone was impressed. The Brennan Center for Justice, researching state campaign finance laws around the country, released a report in February calling it's examination of the campaign finance system in Illinois "sobering." Here are some of the key findings:

• Illinois has the weakest campaign finance laws in the five major states of the Midwest.

• Alone among major Midwestern states, Illinois places no restrictions on campaign contributions,
allowing unlimited donations from any source.

• Disclosure laws, supposedly the bulwark against corruption instead of contribution limits,
are easily evaded.

• The State Board of Elections has failed to enforce the law. In significant measure, this is
because the Board is by law split evenly among Democrats and Republicans. Wary of conducting
investigations and resolving cases that could have political ramifications, the Board
has signaled that campaign finance laws can be evaded without repercussion.

--Matthew Mosk

Posted at 12:05 PM ET on Jul 30, 2007  | Category:  The Green Zone
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