One question, so many answers.

When I asked BGA supporters on Facebook what good-government questions I should ask as a panelist at tonight’s debate for the U.S. Senate seat, between Rep. Mark Kirk and Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, I never expected to get nearly 100 responses. This speaks volumes about Illinois citizens’ desire to ask our candidates the tough questions about how we can truly make our government better—not simply a campaign contingent on attack ads and smear tactics.

With our state in crisis at all levels, the need to hold our candidates accountable for what they will do if elected has never been greater. I’m honored that my old station, ABC 7 Chicago, invited me to be on the panel for tonight’s debate and tomorrow night’s between the main party candidates for governor, IL Sen. Bill Brady and Gov. Pat Quinn. Both debates are sponsored by ABC 7 and the League of Women Voters and will air on ABC at 10:35 p.m.

Thank you for all the wonderful questions and topic suggestions. There were many common themes running through the submissions, and I used those to create a composite of questions. I hope to ask as many as possible tonight and am posting these below. What we’re left with is evidence that the people of Illinois want serious answers from candidates competing to represent our state in Washington.

The questions:

  • To what degree should the citizens of Illinois hold you accountable for what you’ve said during the campaign? Do you regret the tone of the campaign?
  • Nearly every major state is running huge budget deficits and suffers serious shortfalls in public pension funds. Some financial analysts are now suggesting the U.S. government will have to step in and bail out the states in a manner similar to the recent bank bailout. What do you think of that possibility? Do you see the need for a federal bailout of the states? Would you favor it as a last resort?
  • In these difficult economic times, what parts of the government can and should be reduced, drastically cut or eliminated? What parts of the government should not be touched?
  • To ease the national debt, some experts have suggested selling off public assets to private investors. This could include airports, bridges, parts of national parks and many other federally owned properties. What is your view of selling federal assets to private investors?
  • Do you think the Senate operates efficiently? If not, what would you propose to better utilize taxpayer money in the Senate?
  • What does your largest contributor expect in return for his or her contribution?
  • Does more transparency mean better government? If so, what steps will you take, beyond existing laws, to further transparency in federal government?