CHICAGO – A donor, a
state senator and a political action committee are challenging an Illinois law
that places a cap on individual and group contributions to candidates for state
office but exempts state political parties and legislative leaders.
The Liberty Justice Center, a nonpartisan litigation center that supports economic liberty, private property rights, free speech, and other fundamental rights, announced it is appealing a ruling by the U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in Chicago that upheld the campaign finance law that passed in
2009. The lawsuit claims the law unfairly limits certain campaign
Plaintiffs suing the state include state Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Republican who
represents Madison County, Edgar Bachrach, an Illinois resident who contributes
thousands of dollars to political campaigns and PACs, and Illinois Liberty PAC,
a political action committee that backs legislative candidates who support
fiscally conservative ideals. The lawsuit specifically names Attorney General
Lisa Madigan and state elections officials.
“Illinois’ political leaders should not be allowed to use campaign finance
rules to tilt the political playing field in their favor and protect themselves
from competition,” Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center,
said in a news release. “That isn’t just unfair. It’s unconstitutional, and we
will ask the appellate court to recognize that and strike this scheme down.”
McCarter told the Record he doesn’t think the law is
“It gives unlimited power to those that are in favor with the party versus
someone who might be more independent, like myself,” he said, adding that
instead he must try to compete using capped contributions from individuals.
“Absolutely there are people who would give more.”
He said people who talk about taking money out of politics inevitably want to
see it taken away from a candidate they oppose.
“What about somebody you think is good?” he said. “Whose voice do you want to
hear? You should be able to give whatever you want to make that voice as loud
Under the Illinois Election Code, the Illinois Disclosure and Regulation of
Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act identifies three classes of political
contributors: individuals; political committees; and corporations, labor unions
and other associations. From there, political committees can refer to candidate
political committees, political party committees and political action
committees, called PACs.
Individuals can contribute $5,000 to a candidate in a given election cycle and
$10,000 to a PAC or a political party committee.
A PAC, which is a group of people or organization that spends more than $5,000
a year to support or oppose a candidate, can contribute $50,000 to a candidate
during an election cycle. But political party committees may contribute an
unlimited amount to a candidate during a general election.
There are other
limits on those committees: During a primary election, contributions are capped
at $200,000 to a candidate for statewide office; $125,000 to state senate races
and some judicial and county elections; $75,000 for state representative races
and some judicial and county elections; and $50,000 for all other races.
Political party committees can contribute a max of $20,000 to a PAC during an
A legislative caucus committee is a political party committee comprised of the
majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate or by a committee
of five state senators or 10 state representatives of the same caucus. These
are subject to the limits of a political party committee.
The lawsuit claims it’s unconstitutional to favor of legislative caucus
committees by treating them like political party committees.
“(Plaintiffs) argue that legislative caucus committees, though regulated as
political parties, actually have little in common with political parties and
are far more similar to PACs,” court documents state. “Because legislative
caucus committees have the potential to corrupt, the argument goes, their
classification as political parties undermines the act’s anti-corruption
justification for limiting contributions from individuals and PACs and renders
the law fatally underinclusive.”
But the court wasn’t persuaded by testimony in the case. Ahead of the Sept. 7
ruling, the court had dismissed most of the plaintiffs' claims, according to
“By their nature, then, legislative caucus committees more closely resemble
political parties than do PACs because they are organized around and created by
legislative leaders, who are chosen by their respective caucuses, or by groups
of legislators from the same caucus,” Judge Gary Feinerman wrote in the Sept. 7
Feinerman upheld the law, saying the law’s exemption of legislative committees
from limits doesn’t “cast doubt” on the state’s reasons for limiting
contributions by PACs and others.
“There is no basis to conclude that the act’s true purpose is to provide
preferential treatment to certain political speakers,” Feinerman wrote.