January 20, 2011
SPRINGFIELD -- In her first official act after taking the oath of office, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon took Illinois a step forward in terms of transparency and ethics by releasing a personal financial statement and issuing a “no free lunch” order for her employees.
“My administration will lead by example when it comes to open, honest public service,” Simon said Thursday. “I want to start the conversation regarding the next chapter of ethics and campaign finance reform.”
The full financial disclosure of Simon’s assets, liabilities and net worth -- which she pledged to release annually with her tax returns going forward -- will allow taxpayers to determine if she has any personal financial interests that could pose a conflict of interest to her decision making.
According to her financial statement, Simon earned almost $36,000 as a law professor at Southern Illinois University last year before taking an unpaid leave of absence April 1 to run for statewide office, teaching the rest of the semester for free. Her portfolio is focused on socially conscious investments.
“Shining a light on the financial and business interests of our state leaders will help grow an effective, ethical government,” she said. “Taxpayers deserve to see clearly that every decision I make is based on their best interests.”
The new lieutenant governor also eschewed pay-to-play politics Thursday by issuing an executive order that prohibits her campaign fund from accepting contributions from employees of Illinois constitutional offices and prohibits her staff from accepting free meals from lobbyists. Under state law, employees are allowed to make political donations and may accept up to $75 in refreshments from lobbyists per day.
The order – the toughest of any ethics measure in state government – aims to eliminate the possibility or even the perception that the Lieutenant Governor’s Office would receive political contributions or be “wined and dined” in exchange for state employment or political favors.
“Elected officials cannot not stand by and let the deck be stacked in favor of political contributors. It fuels corruption, breeds public cynicism, and taxpayers end up paying in the long run,” Simon said. “My ethics package is comprised of common-sense measures that take big steps toward separating politics from government and restoring public confidence in our elected officials.”
Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said Simon’s financial statement and ethics order send a strong message of transparency and accountability to taxpayers.
“Lt. Governor Simon is providing the voting public with a road map that shows if she’s traveling down the road of their best interests or her own best interest,” Canary said. “I look forward to working with her to get more public officials moving in this direction.”
Brian Imus, state director of Illinois PIRG, also applauded Simon’s transparency and efforts to limit quid pro quo and lobbyist influence on her office.
“There’s much that must be done to restore public confidence in government. Lt. Governor Simon is setting the right example in her first days in state office,” Imus said.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) thanked Simon for her voluntary disclosure and said he wants to work toward more disclosure and transparency in an effort to restore faith in state government.
“There are far too many instances of conflicts of interest that have led to waste, corruption, fraud and mismanagement in Illinois,” he said. “By boosting disclosure and transparency at the outset of her administration, Lt. Governor Simon is taking a crucial step toward government accountability."
Executive Order 01-11