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.