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Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidate's ethics plan focuses on lobbyists, lawmakers

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CHICAGO — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner released a proposal for ethics reform Wednesday that included a temporary ban on Illinois officials becoming lobbyists and broadening recall powers, ideas political experts called a step in the right direction but difficult to implement.

In his first bid for public office, Rauner has made promises to fight corruption a theme in trying to unseat Gov. Pat Quinn. Calling the Chicago Democrat a "corrupt career politician," Rauner outlined how he'd change the Illinois Constitution to allow legislators to be expelled more than once for the same reason and reiterated his push to prohibit legislative leaders from other employment.

His proposed one-year lobbyist ban would include chiefs of staff and legislators, along with those who were already lobbyists and wanted to work in state government.

"This revolving door of cronyism and corruption rewards a select group of insiders at the expense of the tax payer," he told reporters.

Rauner's plan also called for an online list of politically connected hires, a move that comes as Quinn has come under fire for hiring problems at his Department of Transportation. The November matchup between Rauner and Quinn, who is seeking a second full term, is one of the most competitive governor's races nationwide.

Illinois Campaign for Political Reform chairwoman Susan Garrett called Rauner's blueprint important in light of Illinois' history with corruption. However, she said how things would be executed mattered. For one, she questioned limiting the day jobs of legislators, who might rely on outside income.

"More details should be attached to the plan," she said. "It's a good first start."

Major overhauls to Illinois ethics laws have largely followed scandal. That included when Quinn took over from ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was imprisoned on corruption charges. Even so, changes have been difficult to get through the state Legislature and many proposals have been watered down.

Still, political experts said Quinn's ethics reform record was notable, particularly in signing Illinois' first limits on campaign contributions in 2009. Quinn, who dismissed Rauner's comments about his political career as name-calling, brought up his efforts to get an amendment on the 2010 ballot giving voters power to recall a governor. Rauner proposed extending it to include recall of legislators.

"I've been able to pass important legislative reforms," Quinn told reporters Wednesday.

Quinn has tried to portray the wealthy venture capitalist as out of touch. He hit that theme again Wednesday by criticizing the NFL's handling of the Ray Rice case as "putting profits ahead of doing what's right" and calling on Rauner — a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers — to condemn domestic violence.

"If you own a team, however small the ownership percentage, you should speak out on this issue," Quinn told reporters.

When asked about the issue, Rauner told reporters he was focused on winning the election in Illinois and hadn't spoken with the Steelers. Later, a Rauner spokeswoman released a statement saying the NFL "badly mishandled" the Rice situation and shot back at Quinn with scrutiny of state funding for domestic violence issues.

The election is Nov. 4.


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