Are Illinois legislators purposely avoiding writing expanded gambling measures that actually can become law in order to build their campaign chests? That rumor has been circulating ever since state Rep. Bob Rita, in the last week of the legislative session, said he would not call the expanded gambling bill he sponsored for a vote.
Some are calling Rita’s legislation just another “fetcher bill,” defined by “A Way With Words” public radio program as follows: “Politicians routinely submit legislative bills that would take money from various persons or groups, and then withdraw them once (constitutionally protected) payments are made.”
In Illinois more than 100 casino, horseracing and video poker companies, plus lawyers and lobbyists are registered with the secretary of state to work on gambling issues. The thinking goes that it takes a lot of money for them to promote and defeat gambling bills, and the legislative sponsors of those bills also receive a lot of money in campaign contributions. So if a gambling bill became law that money would go away—an average of about $1 million a year in campaign donations to lawmakers between 2002 and 2010; contributions dropped by half in 2011 and again in 2012 due to state laws limiting campaign donations by individuals, corporations, unions and political action committees.