United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ILLINOIS LIBERTY PAC, a political action committee registered with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and Edgar Bachrach, Plaintiffs,
Lisa M. MADIGAN, Attorney General of Illinois, William McGuffage, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Jesse R. Smart, Vice-Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Harold D. Byers, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Betty J. Coffrin, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Ernest L. Gowen, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Judith C. Rice, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Bryan A. Schneider, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, and Charles W. Scholz, Member of the Illinois State Board of Elections, Defendants.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Jacob Horst Huebert, Peter Gregory White, Diane S. Cohen, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs.
Laura Marie Rawski, Marni M. Malowitz, Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GARY FEINERMAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Illinois Liberty PAC brought this official capacity suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Attorney General of Illinois and the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and members of the Illinois State Board of
Elections, alleging that certain contribution limits imposed by the Illinois Election Code violate the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Doc. 1. The provisions challenged by the original complaint limit the amount that political action committees (" PACs" ) may contribute to a candidate; those provisions do not limit PAC contributions to independent expenditure committees or independent expenditures by PACs themselves. Illinois Liberty moved for a preliminary injunction, Doc. 6, and the court set an expedited briefing schedule and a hearing date of August 27, 2012, Doc. 14. On August 24, three days before the hearing date, Illinois Liberty and a second plaintiff, Edgar Bachrach, filed an amended complaint, which adds a challenge to provisions of the Illinois Election Code limiting the amount that individuals may contribute to candidates and PACs; like the provisions challenged by the original complaint, these additional provisions do not limit an individual's contributions to independent expenditure committees or independent expenditures by individuals themselves. Doc. 27. On the hearing date itself, Illinois Liberty filed a motion to withdraw its preliminary injunction motion. Doc. 28. The court granted the motion to withdraw and, at Plaintiffs' request, set an expedited briefing schedule for a new preliminary injunction motion. Doc. 31. Plaintiffs filed their motion three days later. Doc. 32. Briefing on the motion closed on September 19, 2012. Doc. 42. The motion is denied.
The provisions challenged here were enacted in 2009 as part of the Illinois Disclosure and Regulation of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act, Ill. Pub. Act 96-832, as amended in 2012, Ill. Pub. Act 97-766. The provisions recognize three classes of political contributors: (1) individuals; (2) political committees; and (3) corporations, labor unions, or other associations. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b). There are several different types of political committees, including candidate political committees, political party committees, PACs, and independent expenditure committees. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(a). A candidate political committee is the candidate himself or any group that accepts contributions or makes expenditures on his behalf. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(b). Because a candidate can have only one candidate political committee, 10 ILCS 5/9-2(b), the candidate and her political committee are practically indistinguishable and will be referred to together as the " candidate."
A political party committee is the state, county, or ward/township committee of a political party. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(c). Any group whose candidate received over five percent of the total vote cast in the State or a subdivision thereof in the previous general election is recognized as a political party in the next election in the corresponding geographical area. 10 ILCS 5/7-2. A party can have only one political party committee in any geographical area. 10 ILCS 5/9-2(c). For example, there can be only one Republican party committee for Illinois, one for Cook County, and one for each ward/township within Cook County. For ease of reference, the term " political party" will refer to a political party and its affiliated committees.
A legislative caucus committee— defined as a " committee established for the purpose of electing candidates to the General Assembly" — is a type of political party committee. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(c). Legislative caucus committees may be formed by the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate, or by a committee of five state senators or ten state representatives. Ibid. An example of a legislative caucus committee is the Democratic Majority, a committee whose purpose is to elect Democratic candidates to the Illinois
House. Doc. 7-4 at 7. A legislative candidate may not accept contributions from more than one legislative caucus committee. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b). If that prohibition were not in place, numerous legislative caucus committees could be set up to accept outside contributions and to channel those contributions to candidates, effectively evading the limitations on contributions to candidates, which are outlined below.
A PAC is a group of people or an organization (except candidates and political party committees) that accepts contributions, makes expenditures, and/or makes electioneering communications that relate to a political race and exceed $3000 in a twelve-month period. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(d). A given group or organization may form only one PAC. 10 ILCS 5/9-2(d). Illinois Liberty is a PAC. Doc. 27 at ¶ 5; Doc. 34-2 at ¶ 4. Independent expenditure committees are similar to PACs, except they can make only independent expenditures and not contributions. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(f). Illinois law does not prohibit a given group or organization from forming multiple independent expenditure committees.
The Act limits the amounts that certain contributors may contribute to a candidate: an individual may give $5000; a corporation, labor union, or other association may give $10,000; and a PAC or other candidate may give $50,000. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b). Political parties may contribute unlimited amounts to a candidate during a general election. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b). During a primary election, political parties are subject to a $200,000 limit for contributions to a candidate for statewide office; a $125,000 limit for state senate elections, some judicial elections, and some county elections; a $75,000 limit for state representative elections, some judicial elections, and some county elections; and a $50,000 limit for all other elections. Ibid. All contribution limits are lifted for a race if a self-funding candidate, individual, or independent expenditure committee spends over a designated threshold, which is $250,000 for statewide races and $100,000 for other races. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(h) & (h-5). When the limits are lifted for a race, all candidates in that race may accept unlimited contributions from any source. Ibid.
The Act imposes limits on contributions to political parties. During an election cycle, a political party may accept only $10,000 from an individual, $50,000 from a PAC, and $20,000 from a corporation, labor organization, or association. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(c). A political party may accept only $50,000 from another political party committee or a candidate during the primary election; that restriction is set to expire on July 1, 2013, when political party committees will be able to accept unlimited contributions from candidates and other political party committees. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(c-5). Contributions to PACs are limited as well. During an election cycle, a PAC may accept $10,000 from an individual, $50,000 from another PAC or a candidate, and $20,000 from a corporation, labor union, association, or political party. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(d).
The Act imposes no limits on contributions to independent expenditure committees. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(e-5). In Personal PAC v. McGuffage, 858 F.Supp.2d 963 (N.D.Ill.2012), the court invalidated the Act to the extent that it limited contributions to PACs that make only independent expenditures. That decision was not appealed. Illinois Liberty is not a PAC that makes only independent expenditures. Doc. 27 at ¶ 5 (" Plaintiff Illinois Liberty PAC exercises its rights to free speech and association by donating funds ... to the state candidates it supports." ).
A political committee that receives a prohibited contribution is subject to a civil
penalty of up to 150% of the contribution, 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(j), and a civil fine of up to $5000 or $10,000 depending on who committed the violation, 10 ILCS 5/9-23. It is a Class A misdemeanor for a candidate or the treasurer of a political committee to accept a contribution exceeding the applicable limit. 10 ILCS 5/9-25.2.
Although Plaintiffs' papers reference several of the Act's provisions, they directly challenge only the limits on the amounts that individuals and PACs can contribute to a candidate and the amounts individuals can contribute to a PAC. Plaintiffs claim that if the limits were not in place, Illinois Liberty and Bachrach would contribute more to particular candidates than the allowable limits ($50,000 and ...