10/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Dodges Illinois Ethics Gridlock

While Barack Obama left an imprint on two major ethics packages as a state senator, he ducked a plea Thursday to use his influence to safeguard landmark state legislation barring big government contractors from making campaign contributions.

In the middle of a simmering Statehouse ethics battle is Obama's "political godfather," Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who triggered questions Thursday about whether he may allow the legislation to die after the Nov. 4 election.

Designed as a response to the "pay-to-play politics" that have flourished under Gov. Blagojevich, the plan would bar firms with more than $50,000 in state contracts from donating to the officeholder in charge of the deals.

But the governor entirely rewrote the plan, stripping out that language and putting it in an executive order. In its place, he inserted provisions into the original legislation to deal with how lawmakers award themselves pay raises and to bar the practice by some state officeholders of holding outside, non-elected government jobs.

A top government watchdog group that worked closely with Obama during his Springfield years urged the Illinois senator to intervene at a time he is trying to make his reform credentials a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.

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