by Jeff Fleischer(Medill News Service, October 30, 2002)
Democratic candidate Pat Quinn returned to his role as a consumer advocate Wednesday, criticizing Senate President James “Pate” Philip for looking into the voter histories of students applying for legislative scholarships through Philip’s office.
“The law says one cannot use a legislative scholarship and apply a political litmus test to it,” Quinn said. “And Sen. Philip needs to be told that.”
Quinn, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, sent letters to Attorney General Jim Ryan and DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett, asking them to issue an injunction against Philip and the DuPage County Election Commission. Birkett is also the Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general, while Ryan is running for governor against Quinn’s running mate, Rod Blagojevich.
“[Birkett and Ryan] need to inform all those relevant parties of what the constitution and the law is all about,” Quinn said in a news conference at the State of Illinois Center.
Quinn said Philip, R-Woodale, who is also chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party, routinely faxes the DuPage County Election Commission to request applicant voting records without filling out the required forms. He passed out copies of faxes between Philip’s office and the commission, which list the primary voting records of scholarship applicants and their parents.
Because the scholarships are funded with taxpayer money, Quinn said voting records cannot be used in awarding them.
“This, on its face, is unconstitutional. More than $4.5 million a year is spent by the taxpayers of Illinois to pay for legislative scholarships,” Quinn said. “That’s public money, not a penny of private money. Legislators are not permitted under our constitution to use political affiliation in any way, shape or form as a factor in deciding who is eligible for a college scholarship.”
Calls placed to Philip were not returned Wednesday.
The Illinois General Assembly scholarships were established in 1905. The program allows each state legislator to award two four-year scholarships annually, one to the University of Illinois and one to any other state-sponsored university. Many legislators divide those scholarships into one-year or one-semester awards.
Quinn said all five of Philip’s scholarships last year went to Republican primary voters or to students whose parents voted Republican, and that he saw the same trend over the past five years. When told by a reporter that Philip said he needed to see voting records to ensure the applicant lived in his congressional district, Quinn called that defense “baloney.”
“What comes back from the DuPage County Election Commission is not that John Doe lives in the 23rd Senatorial District of Illinois. That is not the inquiry,” Quinn said. “The inquiry is how did John Doe and his mom and dad vote in political primaries going back as far as the eye can see.”
When asked about Quinn’s announcement Wednesday morning, Jim Ryan said he did not have enough information to fully comment.
“I have to look at the specifics,” Ryan said. “I’m opposed to the legislative scholarship policy anyway. I’m against it — I want to abolish it.”