Illinois Liberty PAC v. Madigan et al.

Everyone who wants to participate in the political process in Illinois should be treated equally. That’s the issue in Illinois Liberty PAC v. Madigan et al.

On May 10, The Liberty Justice Center filed an amended complaint in Illinois Liberty PAC et. al. v. Madigan et al., 12 C 5811, which currently is pending in the Federal District court in Chicago. This case challenges Illinois campaign finance law, the Illinois Disclosure and Regulation of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act, on First Amendment grounds. This case was originally filed last summer as an emergency action to be heard before the November 2012 election. While we did not prevail on our motion for preliminary injunction, this case now proceeds for consideration on the merits in the district court.

Illinois’ campaign finance law imposes a series of limits on the contributions individuals, political action committees and others can make to candidates for state elected office. The law also contains some limits on what a political party can contribute to candidates, but these limits only apply in primary elections and are substantially higher than the limits placed on individuals and other speakers. Though enacted under the guise of fighting corruption in Illinois politics, Illinois’ campaign finance law actually creates structures that enhance the potential for corruption.

The amended complaint highlights the following:

   The Act empowers the legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly to create “legislative caucus committees,” which essentially are personalized political action committees exempt from nearly all the law’s contribution limits. These committees are unique to Illinois, with nothing like them found in other state statutes.  The amended complaint includes the expert analysis by Dr. Marcus Osborn, who also served as the expert on the prevailing side in the Supreme Court case that struck down Arizona’s unconstitutional campaign finance statute. Osborn observed that legislative caucus committees actually amplify the appearance and risk of corruption because of the “lack of general election contribution limits on Legislative Caucus Committees and the contribution restrictions that are placed on potentially countervailing political action committees … and individuals,” such as the plaintiffs in this case. Osborn also added that this special privilege accorded the General Assembly top leaders is a form of “self-protection that is likely to result in a consolidation of power, not a robust electoral environment.”

–    The lawsuit also calls into question the campaign finance law’s purported anticorruption purpose because of the temporal nature of the limits. Specifically, the law eliminates all contribution limits in a race if a self-financed candidate spends or an independent expenditure exceeds more than $250,000 for a statewide race or more than $100,000 for any other elective office, but does not do so when party or legislative caucus money exceeds these same limits. The temporal nature of the limits and the fact that party and legislative caucus contributions do not trigger the elimination of the limits shows that the limits themselves only serve as a means for the state to control who gets to speak, how much and when.

The plaintiffs in the legal challenge include: Illinois Liberty PAC, a political action committee; Edgar Bachrach, an individual contributor; and state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, who recently joined the case to challenge the law’s limits on his freedom to raise campaign funds, without being dependent on political party or legislative caucus committees.

 

On July 24, 2012, the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the campaign finance law passed in Illinois in 2009, and amended earlier this month.

Under the guise of “reform,” Illinois lawmakers passed this campaign finance legislation in the wake of scandal involving former Gov. Blagojevich. But this law violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has said that political speech is the highest form of free speech. But this so-called campaign finance reform placed limits on everyone – except political parties and their leaders. Everyone who wants to participate in the political process in Illinois should be treated equally. We shouldn’t have a special set of rules for the political parties or any political figures.

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Under this unconstitutional Illinois statute:

  • Individuals in Illinois can donate only up to $5,000 to a political candidate of their choosing during a general election.
  • Corporations, unions and other associations can donate only up to $10,000 to a candidate.
  • Political Action Committees, such as our client, Illinois Liberty PAC, can donate only up to $50,000 to a candidate during a general election.

But political parties and political leaders? The very people who voted for this law? They face no limits.

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This wasn’t campaign finance reform. This legislation restricted the free speech rights of citizens of Illinois – including our client, Illinois Liberty PAC – while the rest of the political machines can circumvent or are excluded from this law.

The Liberty Justice Center has filed this lawsuit asking the court to stop the enforcement of this statute so that everyone, not just political parties, have access to unlimited political speech.

The Liberty Justice Center is a public interest litigation center that was started by the Illinois Policy Institute in 2011. Its mission is to fight for economic and personal liberty, free speech and other fundamental rights in Illinois and beyond.

The attorney on Illinois Liberty PAC v. Madigan et al. is Jacob Huebert. For more information, or to arrange an interview with Jacob about the case, contact Diana Rickert, Director of Media Relations for the Illinois Policy Institute at (312) 607-4977 or by email at drickert@illinoispolicy.org