August 29, 2013 •
Laws were found to be unenforceable
The DuPage County Board repealed its pay-to-play provisions after learning from the state’s attorney’s office the provisions were unenforceable. As a non-home rule county, the county did not have the power to act on limiting campaign contributions because it was not specifically granted that power by the state legislature.
The changes were enacted as part of an otherwise minor update to the county’s ethics code. Provisions requiring disclosure of campaign contributions by contractors remain in place.
April 9, 2013 •
Former Chicago Bear also running for Romeoville mayor
Voters in the Chicago area are heading to the polls this morning to choose a new representative to the United States Congress, as well as other local offices. Voters on the south side of the city must pick a successor to former Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson resigned from Congress earlier this year for personal reasons and has since pleaded guilty to illegally using campaign funds for personal expenses.
The Democratic nominee, Robin Kelly, is the favorite in the heavily Democratic district. Kelly is a former state lawmaker who hails from Matteson, a village in the south suburbs.
Her opponent is the Republican nominee, Paul McKinley. McKinley, who served almost 20 years in prison for armed robbery, burglary, and aggravated battery, is running on a promise to stop the Chicago political machine and put ex-offenders back to work to help turn their lives around.
In another high profile race, former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael will take on incumbent John Noak for Romeoville mayor. Romeoville is about 30 miles southwest of Chicago and has a population of almost 40,000.
Towns throughout the area will also be deciding whether to allow video poker machines and whether to approve multiple bond requests. Polls close at 7 p.m. local time and the weather looks promising for a good turnout.
January 4, 2013 •
Increase occurs every two years
The Illinois State Board of Elections has announced that campaign contributions limits have been increased with the start of the new year. According to statute, on January 1 of every odd-numbered year, the board of elections must adjust the contribution limits due to inflation.
Under the updated limits, a candidate political committee may accept, over the course of an election cycle, no more than $5,300 from an individual, $10,500 form a corporation, labor organization, or association, and $52,600 from a political action committee. A political party committee and a political action committee may accept no more than $10,500 from an individual, $21,100 from a corporation, labor organization, or association, and $52,600 from a political action committee.
Absent any legislation, these contribution limits will remain in place until January 1, 2015 and will be in effect for the next gubernatorial election.
October 25, 2012 •
Case goes back to trial court to determine constitutionality of state’s contribution limits
The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois’ limits on campaign financing will remain in force at least through the upcoming general election. Illinois Liberty PAC initially sought an injunction to suspend the limits, but its effort was refused by the district court. They appealed and the appellate court ruled that the PAC’s attorneys “have not shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to contribution limits.”
The case will now go back to the district court, where the actual merits of the case can be decided. The PAC claims that the limits violate their First Amendment right to free speech and their equal protection rights because it allows political parties to spend unlimited amounts of money, while limiting contributions from other sources.
The PAC was not surprised by the ruling saying, “We knew it was going to be an uphill battle.”
October 8, 2012 •
Preliminary injunction denied, plaintiffs to appeal and continue fight
A federal court rejected an injunction trying to overturn Illinois’ political contribution law. Illinois Liberty PAC filed for the injunction contending the state law violated its First Amendment right to free speech. Illinois law limits the amount individuals, PACs, unions, and corporations may give to candidates each election. However, the law does not limit what political parties may contribute to a campaign.
Illinois Liberty PAC contended that if it was limited in what it could contribute, everybody should be limited. United State District Judge Gary Feinerman disagreed, holding that the injunction “would create a manifest possibility of actual or apparent corruption” and cause harm to the state’s citizens.
This ruling will not be the end of the case. Illinois Liberty PAC plans on filing an emergency motion with the appellate court in hopes of suspending the limits for the upcoming November election. Also, the courts will eventually have to rule on the constitutionality of Illinois’ contribution limits.
September 12, 2012 •
Disclosure cases likely to go Supreme Court
A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld an Illinois state law regarding disclosure related to campaign advertisements. The Center for Individual Freedom, a Virginia based advocacy group, sued the state, claiming that its First Amendment rights were violated by a law that requires all entities, regardless of whether their main purpose is influencing elections, to register and report as a political committee once it spends $3,000 for independent expenditures in a 12-month period.
In dismissing the case, the court ruled this law did not violate the free speech rights of organizations. The case was originally dismissed in district court last year on the same grounds.
This continues an ongoing cycle where groups are suing states, and obtaining mixed results, for the state’s disclosure laws based on the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision in 2010. Most experts believe these cases will eventually end up in Supreme Court, where the nation’s highest court will determine whether states can force groups to disclose donors who wish to remain anonymous.
July 20, 2012 •
Proposal moves to full city council vote
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new proposed ethics ordinance has advanced out of committee and will now head to a full city council vote. The proposal, which stems from the first set of recommendations handed out by Emanuel’s appointed Ethics Board, will, among other things, lower the value of gifts that city’s employees and officials may receive. Currently, the limit is $100, but the proposed ordinance lowers that limit to $50.
The proposal is expected to pass the city council. The ethics board is expected to release its second set of ethics recommendations in late summer.
July 9, 2012 •
Law to effect immediately
On Friday, July 6, 2012, Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3722 into law, rewriting the state campaign contribution limits. Under this new law, if a natural person or an independent expenditure committee makes independent expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, the campaign of a candidate or incumbent in an amount over $250,000 for statewide office, or $100,000 for all other elective offices, then the contribution limits are waived for all candidates for that specific office. For example, if an independent expenditure committee spends more than $250,000 for commercials against candidate A, who is running for governor, then the contribution limits do not apply for any of the gubernatorial candidates.
The new law also establishes registration and reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees. The law goes into effect immediately, which means these rules apply for the state house and senate seats which are up for election in November.