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EDITORIAL: Revolving door makes legislators rich while voters get dizzy

Former state Sen. Pamela Althoff.

Former state Sen. Pamela Althoff sponsored a bill last spring backed by the rental car industry to add regulations and taxes on car-sharing services. Now, she's lobbying for Enterprise to get her former colleagues in Springfield to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the bill. | Sun-Times files

No matter how much voters complain about the lucrative revolving door between government and business, the door keeps swinging.

As Robert Herguth reported in Sunday’s Sun-Times, then-state Sen. Pam Althoff last spring co-sponsored a bill which Enterprise and other rental car companies dearly desired. It called for new regulations and taxes on the new “peer-to-peer” car-sharing companies that are competing with rental car companies.

A few months later, on Sept. 30, Althoff quit the Legislature and opened a lobbying business.

Among her first clients?

Enterprise, of course, which promptly signed up.

EDITORIAL

The revolving door can’t swing much faster.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed Althoff’s bill, but she says she’s still working to get it passed, so in a way her job hasn’t changed much. She was also elected this month to the McHenry County Board.

Althoff told the Sun-Times she has no problem with legislators going straight to work for clients who would have benefited from bills they championed.

At the very least, we’d say the optics are bad, but maybe Althoff is near-sighted.

Nor does Althoff have a problem with county board members, who are elected to serve the public, lobbying in Springfield on behalf of private entities.

Our view is that Althoff’s game, so often played in Illinois, is indefensible. We support a bill, sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, that would bar county board members from working as lobbyists.

When elected officials leave office and go to work for the companies they carried water for, you, the voters, should assume your interests were coming in second all along.

State ethics officials say Althoff’s arrangement did not violate state rules, which just means the rules are not strong enough. In 2009, the Legislature passed a “revolving door” law that bans such activity by state employees, but not by legislators.

Does this surprise anybody?

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