Roger Keats, a Republican candidate for Cook County Board president, on Tuesday came out in favor of strong reforms limiting lobbying by elected officials.
Labeling Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Cook Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berios "the Pay to Play Twins," Keats accused the two of a "serious conflict of interest," in pushing for the lobbying limits.
Keats said he supports proposals by the Better Government Association and University of Illinois at Chicago Political Science Professor Dick Simpson calling for an end to elected officials lobbying other government bodies "for profit representing a client."
Keats drew attention to how Berrios has lobbied Madigan on behalf of clients favoring video gambling in the General Assembly, while Madigan's law firm argues assessment appeals before Berrios on the board of review. Madigan also is the head of the state Democratic Party, while Berrios heads the party in Cook.
"This is a blatant conflict of interest," Keats said. "You cannot serve two masters at the same time."
Keats accused them of "helping each other make millions and millions of dollars at the taxpayers' expense," adding they "have shifted over a billion dollars in assessed valuation from Michael Madigan's clients to the average homeowner."
Keats, a former Wilmette state senator, said he was not waiting until after the November general election to push the reforms, but "we are supporting and actively attempting to pass legislation."
He said Palatine Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy would sponsor the legislation in the General Assembly, and that commissioners were lining up support on the county board.
"It is time for action. It is time for reform," Simpson said in joining Keats. "Reform is in the air."
Keats repeated a favorite Everett Dirksen quotation that "I see the light when I feel the heat," adding, "In an election year, sometimes it's easier to deliver heat."
Without addressing the conflict-of-interest charges, Berrios issued a statement repeating a campaign pledge that he'll drop his lobbying efforts if elected assessor, as he is the Democratic nominee for the office in the general election. "Being Cook County assessor is a full-time job," he said. "I want the people of Cook County to be comfortable knowing that I will be concentrating solely on the job at hand - and that is making sure their properties are fairly assessed."
Keats is running against Democrat Toni Preckwinkle and Green Party candidate Thomas Tresser in the Nov. 2 election.