Judicial Watch Files Open Records Lawsuit against Illinois Governor and Illinois State Senate over Pork Barrel Spending
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed open records lawsuits against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Senate and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones over documents related to pork barrel spending in the State of Illinois and "secret-side deals" made between Governor Blagojevich and Illinois state lawmakers.
Judicial Watch submitted open records requests in conjunction with Americans for Prosperity to the Illinois Senate and the office of Governor Blagojevich on February 25, 2008, and March 20, 2008, respectively. In a letter dated March 20, 2008, the Illinois Senate, citing "privacy interests," indicated that no documents would be forthcoming, while the governor’s office failed to respond to the open records requests altogether. In both lawsuits, Judicial Watch is asking the Circuit Court of the 7th Judicial Circuit in Sangamon County, Illinois to force compliance with Illinois open records law.
With respect to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the Illinois Senate, Judicial Watch is asking the court to, "Enjoin [the Illinois Senate] to prepare, forthwith, an affidavit declaring that they have fully and completely complied with Plaintiff’s February 25, 2008 request and further [declare] that any and all non-exempt public records responsive to the request have been produced to [Judicial Watch]."
Judicial Watch and Americans for Prosperity launched an investigation of public spending policies in the State of Illinois after multiple press reports documented "secret side deals" between Governor Blagojevich and Illinois lawmakers "for items ranging from police cars and tornado sirens to millions of dollars for after-school programs…" (The Chicago Tribune estimated these pork barrel projects cost Illinois taxpayers at least $70.8 million in 2006 alone.)
"[Judicial Watch and American Prosperity] are undertaking a detailed review of public spending practices in Illinois, including member initiatives and/or earmarked appropriations, about which substantial questions have been raised," Judicial Watch wrote in its original open records request filed with the Illinois Senate.
"Governor Blagojevich and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones need to come clean now about any side deals they made to fund pork barrel projects," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Their attempts to stonewall the release of these documents demonstrate a shocking lack of respect for both Illinois taxpayers and the rule of law."