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Beavers' bid to stop unions gets boost

Saturday, September 01, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

A bid to sharply restrict local unions' ability to donate to Cook County political campaigns got a boost Friday with the release of a favorable legal opinion.

Commissioner Bill Beavers, who bears a grudge against the unions, has been pushing the proposal to limit any county employee union or its national affiliate from donating more than $3,000 a year to a county politician.

When he proposed the restriction in June, Beavers (D-Chicago) accused unions of trying to "buy elections." Beavers' daughter, Darcel Beavers, lost her recent bid to replace her father on the Chicago City Council after unions helped fund the campaign of her opponent, Sandi Jackson.

The proposal was roundly criticized on the county board floor by Beavers' fellow Democrats, many of whom rely on union donations at election time. But Beavers has kept the bill alive in the finance committee, where it gets a hearing Thursday.

Critics said Beavers' proposal was an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. But the Cook County state's attorney issued a formal opinion Friday dismissing that claim.

Most of Beavers' proposal "would likely survive legal challenge as similar statutory provisions in the United States Code and in state law have been upheld," the opinion said.

Portions of Beavers ordinance would likely not hold up in court, the opinion said, including a provision that calls for any politician found violating the limit on donations to be thrown out of office.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who blasted the ordinance in June, said Friday he doesn't think Beavers has the votes to pass it, regardless of its legality.

"I just don't understand this, other than he's upset with what happened to his daughter," said Suffredin (D-Evanston). "I think he's out there on his own."

Beavers did not return a message left Friday.

Jonathan Lipman may be reached at
or (312) 782-1286.

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