Alexi Giannoulias takes steps toward, but still undecided on Senate run

Taking another step toward a U.S. Senate campaign for Barack Obama’s former seat, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias pledged to “say no” to contributions from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs if he runs for the office.

Taking another step toward a U.S. Senate campaign for Barack Obama’s former seat, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias pledged to “say no” to contributions from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs if he runs for the office.

Repeatedly referencing the former senator and now president Obama, Giannoulias wrote he was ” inspired by his example” in a letter posted on his exploratory Web site.

“The historic 2008 election reminded us that when such ordinary citizens band together, their collective power can change communities and nations,” the 32-year-old state treasurer wrote. “Unlike the corporate entities that bankroll the status quo, I believe that citizens’ committees of nurses, teachers, workers, police officers, firefighters, veterans, environmentalists, and others who band together to protect our constitutional rights are true agents of change. I will proudly accept their support if they deem my cause worthy.”

Giannoulias formed an exploratory committee to consider running for the Senate seat held by Roland Burris, who had been besieged by demands for his resignation in connection with his relationship with former governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois Senate in January for attempting to sell the senate seat but appointed Burris before he was removed from office.

A University economics expert suggests Giannoulias should go one step further if campaign finance reform is a goal for the potential candidate.

Forgoing bundlers, people who gather contributions from many individuals and present them to the candidate as a whole, would be an interesting decision, said Fred Giertz, head of the University’s economics department.

“The real question here is whether he’s going to finance the campaign himself,” he said. Putting significant personal wealth toward the campaign would be a major variable for the financial situation going forward without contributions. Using personal finances is a luxury few candidates have, Giertz said.

In the letter posted on his exploration site, Giannoulias wrote that he realizes forgoing the funds “places significant restrictions and limits to how and where (he) can raise the money to get (the campaign’s) message out.”

In a direct appeal to voters, Giannoulias said he is counting on “grassroot” support to finance and propel a campaign.

The decision could be more politically motivated, considering recent events in Illinois, Giertz said. “Illinois is in a situation where politicians have been involved in all kinds of controversies and problems,” he said. “This is an attempt to differentiate himself and indicate he won’t be involved in corrupt activities.”

But Obama’s campaign finance promises fell flat during the presidential election when he opted not to receive public funds for his campaign. Obama had pledged earlier to accept the funds and the limits on spending that come along.

Giertz said he wouldn’t be surprised if Giannoulias went back on his statements either.

“I don’t think politicians are necessarily bound by their promises,” he said. “It didn’t seem to harm President Obama very much when he said he wouldn’t accept federal money.”

Calls to Giannoulias’ exploration office were not immediately returned Monday.