SPRINGFIELD -- In her first official act Thursday, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon instituted an officewide ban on receiving campaign contributions from certain state employees and free lunches from lobbyists.

SPRINGFIELD -- In her first official act Thursday, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon instituted an officewide ban on receiving campaign contributions from certain state employees and free lunches from lobbyists.

Simon, a Carbondale Democrat, also disclosed $586,709 in net worth, mostly real estate and stock market holdings.

“Illinois has two tracks in our politics: We have the track of two recent governors, one from each political party, that have been convicted of federal crimes, but then we have the Abraham Lincoln and Paul Douglas track,” Simon told reporters at a news conference, referring to the late U.S. Senator from Illinois who was known for fighting pork-barrel spending and machine politics in Chicago.

“I hope by what I’m doing here today I am establishing that I aspire at least to be on that track of open, honest, ethical government.”

Simon’s ban on contributions extends to all state employees in the executive branch, as well as the heads of state agencies who are appointed by the governor. It applies to herself and the seven employees in her office.

The ban would not affect contributions from workers whose pensions or salaries are contributed to by the state, such as teachers or human service providers.

The order ending free meals from lobbyists stems from a ban on gifts to politicians, which excluded meals costing up to $75, Simon said.

“What I’ve decided as a really easy ‘bright line’ rule, when anyone from my office, me, any of us go out to eat, we pay for our own lunch,” Simon said.

Simon said she hopes to start a discussion about stricter campaign finance reform.

“I want to lead by example,” Simon said. “I want to inspire better government.”

Gov. Pat Quinn’s spokeswoman, Annie Thompson, said the governor’s personal rule is not to accept contributions from state employees.

The lieutenant governor also released a financial statement showing the combined net worth of she and her husband, Perry Knop, to be $586,709.

The couple’s house in Carbondale is listed as being worth $102,624 house. They also own the house of Simon’s father, the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, in Makanda. It is valued at $323,388,

Their stock market holdings, worth more than $100,000, include shares in Pepsico, the Hershey Company and investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“I’d love to just say, ‘trust me,’ but I realize that has very little value,” Simon said. “That’s why I’m putting out the financial statements. … You can see here where my economic interests are and that I don’t have conflicts in working for the people of the state.”

Simon said she plans to release her tax returns once they are filed.

 

Andy Brownfield can be reached at 782-3095.

 

Income

Sheila Simon and her husband, Perry Knop, earned $130,830 before their financial statement was compiled on Nov. 30, 2010. Knop was paid $87,946 as a professor at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Simon made $35,954 during four months teaching at Southern Illinois University, at which point she left to run for office, $7,030 from textbook royalties and $500 for performing with the band Loose Gravel, for which she sings and plays banjo and bassoon.