The U.S. Supreme Court has said that “the First Amendment stands against … restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some but no others.” But two new Illinois campaign finance laws place restrictions on only certain Americans in specific races. These restrictions are illegal.
In the last year, Illinois has enacted two bills that restrict contributions only in judicial campaigns by, among other things, prohibiting out-of-state donations to candidates and placing arbitrary limits on contributions to independent expenditure committees.
Matt Chancey, a former Illinois resident, Fair Courts America, and Restoration PAC wish to speak through their contributions in upcoming Illinois judicial elections. Illinois’ limits on their ability to support judicial candidates violates their free speech rights provided by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They have filed a federal lawsuit with representation from attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a national, nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting Americans’ constitutional rights.
Senate Bill 536, enacted in Nov. 2021, prohibits candidates for Supreme Court, Appellate Court, or Circuit Court from accepting “contributions from any out-of-state person.” The government cannot place restrictions on one group of people—in this instance “out-of-state persons.” This is a clear violation of the First Amendment right of these Americans to support or oppose Illinois judicial candidates.
Enacted in May 2022, House Bill 0716 says any independent expenditure committee to support or oppose a judicial candidate “may not accept contributions from any single person in a cumulative amount that exceeds $500,000 in any election cycle.” It also requires that any amount received that exceeds $500,000 must be immediately forwarded to the State Treasurer who will deposit the funds into the State Treasury. Only committees for judicial candidates are restricted by Illinois law. Similar groups established to support any other candidate may receive an unlimited amount of money from any person.