Best of #StateReads: Illinois’ Busy Fundraising Circuit

By: - March 13, 2012 12:00 am

This week’s collection of #StateReads includes articles on a one-night flurry of political fundraising in Illinois, the personal stories that swayed Republican lawmakers on same-sex marriage and a national trend of questioning solitary confinement.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to [email protected]

“The year’s busiest day of campaign fundraising shows how Springfield really works”
Chicago Tribune

The calendar for campaign fundraisers in Springfield last Monday night was so packed, reports the Chicago Tribune , that lobbyists used spreadsheets to keep track of all the places they needed to be. With more than 20 events, it was the biggest fundraising night of the year for Illinois politicians. Reporters Ray Long ( @raylong ) and Alissa Groeninger ( @A_Groeninger ) explain that the flurry of activity is the result of Illinois’ upcoming primary on March 20 as well as an interesting twist in when fundraising can happen under the state’s ethics laws.

“California lawmakers collect money without limits for personal causes”
The Sacramento Bee

In California, The Sacramento Bee takes a look at another type of fundraising. While lobbyists’ donations to legislative campaigns are capped, gifts to charities run by lawmakers and their allies are not. Those nonprofits typically help constituents, especially in poor neighborhoods. But politicians benefit, too, suggests reporter Jim Sanders ( @jwsanders55 ). “Special interests are not in the habit of throwing money around,” Phillip Ung of California Common Cause told Sanders. “This money is spent to influence legislators and other elected officials.”

“In three states, personal stories changed gay marriage”

Reuters looked at three states where measures to advance same-sex marriage passed with the help of Republican legislators and found those GOP lawmakers were swayed by personal stories. “Among them,” writes Mary Slosson ( @maryslosson ), “were two Washington State legislators with gay relatives, a New Jersey state senator who changed her mind while working on an anti-bullying measure and a Maryland state House delegate inspired by a gay couple coping with cancer.”

“Prisons rethink isolation, saving money, lives and sanity”
The New York Times

Finally, The New York Times writes about a number of states that are backing away from policies of isolating prisoners, sometimes for 23 hours a day for years on end. The story by Erica Goode ( @egoode ) focuses mostly on Mississippi but mentions similar shifts in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Washington State. Officials are moving away from long-term isolation both because they see evidence it is not working and because their states cannot afford its steep costs.

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