January 20, 2011
By Todd Wilson
SPRINGFIELD --- Following in her late father's footsteps, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon released a far-reaching statement of her family's financial interests today that showed nearly $38,000 of debt and $426,012 in real estate holdings.
The newly inaugurated Democrat also issued an executive order stating she will not accept campaign contributions from state employees and barring anyone with her office from accepting meals from lobbyists.
Simon said she will release her financial statement annually along with her tax returns once they are filed. She also will require her top employees to disclose similar financial and tax documents.
While Simon has not pressed Gov. Pat Quinn to follow her high degree of disclosure, she challenged other elected officials to give more detailed information than the "vague" information they are required by law to release on the statement of economic interest.
"I want to lead by example and I want to inspire better government. Mostly what I want to do is start a conversation about how we make this a standard going forward," she said.
David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the standard for statewide officeholders and other high profile politicians is to release only their income tax returns. At this point, he said, his group is not aware of any other constitutional officer giving such an "insanely detailed" accounting of his or her personal finances.
Simon's financial statement, which runs through Nov. 30, shows she and and her husband, Perry Knop, have a net worth of $586,709. This includes their real estate, retirement plans, stocks and mutual funds and the family's personal vehicles --- a family van and a Chevy S10 pickup truck worth a combined $10,945.
The family owns a home in Carbondale worth $102,624 and Simon's late parents' home in Makanda worth $323,388. Her family investments include $23,322 in Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Pepsico Inc. and Hershey Co. stocks as well as $76,804 in a variety of mutual funds.
Simon explained her $37,749 in liabilities included mostly credit card debt that rose when she refused to take a her salary as a law professor at Southern Illinois University once she became Quinn's running mate in April. She said she continued to work at the university for free until she "terminated her relationship" with the school when she was inaugurated.
She noted that her late father, Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, released detailed personal financial statements, including a listing of her babysitting income, when he served as lieutenant governor.
As lieutenant governor, Paul Simon and his staff were the first to issue such detailed statements, said Gene Callahan, Simon's former press secretary.
With her executive order, Simon is imposing stricter standards on campaign contributions and gifts on herself and her staff than currently exist under state law.
Simon said she will not take campaign contributions from state employees who work for any of the statewide elected officials or from members of boards and commissions appointed by the governor. If Simon or her staff have lunch or dinner with a lobbyists they would pick up their own tab, although she did allow that a can of soda at a conference may be OK.
Callahan said he is excited to see Simon is carrying out her father's "commitment to ethics and integrity in government."
"It's embarrassing how Illinois operates on ethics," he said.
Quinn has released his tax returns in the past and a spokeswoman today said he intends to keep doing so.