Judge denies request for injunction in lawsuit over campaign contribution law

Bethany Krajelis Oct. 9, 2012, 9:43am



A federal judge late last week denied a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against a 2009 campaign contribution law.

The request came from Illinois Liberty PAC and Edgar Bachrach, both of whom contend the state's campaign finance scheme unfairly favors political parties over individuals and political action committees (PACs).

Illinois Liberty -- a PAC led by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft in support of candidates "who embrace public policy rooted in the principles of liberty and free enterprise" -- filed a complaint in July in Chicago's federal court.

Bachrach, a Macon County resident, joined Illinois Liberty's efforts to overturn the law's limits last month, when the PAC filed an amended complaint against Attorney General Lisa Madigan and members of the state Board of Elections.

The law at the crux of the complaint limits the amount of money individuals can give to candidates in general elections to $5,000, corporations, unions and other associations to $10,000 and PACs to $50,000.

It does not, however, set a cap on contributions from political parties in general elections; a difference in treatment that Illinois Liberty PAC and Bachrach claim violates their constitutional rights to equal protection and free speech.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman on Friday declined to issue a preliminary injunction, saying that "plaintiffs' negligible likelihood of success is reason enough to deny their" request to put a halt on contribution limits.

"If a preliminary injunction were granted, there would be no contribution limits for individuals and PACs in the weeks leading up to the 2012 Illinois state elections," Feinerman wrote in his opinion. "This would create a manifest possibility of actual or apparent corruption, an irreparable harm to Illinois, its citizens, and the public interest."

That harm, he wrote, "far outweighs any irreparable harm that the challenged provisions might impose upon individuals and PACs."

In addition to being able to donate to candidates under the law's limits, Feinerman noted that individuals and PACs "may make their voices heard by devoting unlimited sums to their own independent expenditures or by contributing unlimited sums to independent expenditure committees or to PACs that make only independent expenditures."

Feinerman set a status hearing for Oct. 15 to discuss whether a discovery and dispositive motion schedule should be entered in the case.

Illinois Liberty PAC and Bachrach could appeal last week's ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Diane Cohen Diane Cohen, Jacob Huebert and Peter White of the Justice Liberty Center in Chicago represent the plaintiffs.

Assistant attorneys general Laura Rawski and Marni Malowitz represent the defendants.

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