Despite Governor Blagojevich's recent actions to cut state pensions to plug massive holes in the state budget, his Administration reportedly is proposing to filter $3 million to $4 million in taxpayer money to a proposed baseball stadium project involving top Democratic political contributor and wealthy Metro-East trial lawyer John Simmons.
Just how politically connected is John Simmons?
Simmons donated almost $1 million over the last two years to Democratic campaigns, including those of Blagojevich, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and former Supreme Court candidate Gordon Maag. According to the Illinois GOP, Madigan alone has received $55,000 in campaign contributions from Simmons.
Simmons is a principal in the SimmonsCooper law firm of Metro-East Illinois -- a firm which has become notorious as one of the largest asbestos litigation firms in the country. Keep in mind that this country's asbestos lawsuit craze has driven more than seventy companies into bankruptcy, costing as many as 60,000 Americans their jobs.
Bottom line -- John Simmons is an extremely wealthy trial lawyer who is benefiting from our hard-earned taxpayer dollars while our state struggles to recover from a budget and jobs crisis.
This is the height of hypocrisy.
Forgetting for a moment that the wealthy Simmons could no doubt personally finance this entire baseball project, he is one of the many Illinois trial lawyers contributing to our state’s reputation as a haven for lawsuit abuse.
And that reputation costs southern Illinois more jobs than a minor league baseball team ever will bring to the region.
This act of political cronyism by Governor Blagojevich is further evidence of the need for the citizens of Illinois to demand that their elected officials are motivated by service over profit, doing what's right over what's politically expedient, and earning the trust of those who have entrusted them with their votes.
Employers avoid states with corrupt political systems, and they bring new jobs and investment to those states with friendly business climates. Unfortunately, Illinois' reputation for corruption is threatening Illinois jobs, raising prices for hard-working families, and causing employers to think twice about locating in our state.
We should demand that our politicians avoid the lure of pay-to-play politics and commit to following these four basic principles of public service:
The time has come to demand that our elected officials are motivated by service over profit, doing what’s right over what’s politically expedient, and earning the trust of those who have entrusted them with their votes.
It's time to take back our state from the politicians who serve their personal interests over the public good -- and from the special interests who control the Springfield politicians.
This baseball stadium deal between Blagojevich and Simmons may seem like an exciting proposition to southern Illinois sports fans. Who knows? It may even create a few jobs in the short term. But make no mistake – the damage this deal does to the integrity of Illinois’ political system is too great to bear. As such, Southern Illinoisans should oppose this insider deal.
John H. Cox, a former Congressional and U.S. candidate from Illinois, is founder and chair of Restore Trust, a statewide campaign dedicated to ending corruption in Illinois politics.