United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ILLINOIS LIBERTY PAC, EDGAR BACHRACH, and KYLE McC ARTER, 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, all in their official capacities, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Liberty PAC, Edgar Bachrach, and Kyle McCarter brought this
declaratory judgment action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the Attorney General of Illinois and the Chairman,
Vice-Chairman, and other members of the Illinois State Board
of Elections, all in their official capacities, alleging that
certain contribution limits imposed by the Illinois Election
Code violate the First Amendment and the Fourteenth
Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Doc. 65. Early in
the litigation, the court denied Plaintiffs' motion for a
preliminary injunction due to a low likelihood of success on
the merits. Docs. 43-44 (reported at 902 F.Supp.2d 1113 (N.D.
HI. 2012)). The Seventh Circuit summarily affirmed, stating:
"We agree with the district court that [Plaintiffs] have
not shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of
their challenge to contribution limits in 10 ILCS
5/9-8.5." 2012 WL 5259036 (7th Cir. Oct. 24, 2012). This
court then dismissed most of Plaintiffs' claims under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), except for the
claim-which Plaintiffs added after preliminary injunctive
relief was denied-that the Illinois Election Code is
unconstitutional to the extent it classifies legislative
caucus committees as political party committees and thereby
treats them more favorably than political action committees
("PACs"), corporations, and individuals. Docs.
95-96 (reported at 2014 WL 859325 (N.D. 111. Mar. 3, 2014)).
After discovery devoted to that claim, the court denied the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and
Defendants' motion to bar the expert opinions of
Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Marcus Osborn. Docs. 162-163
(reported at 2015 WL 5589630 (N.D. 111. Sept. 21, 2015)). The
court held a bench trial on that claim. Docs. 182-183.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the court enters
the following findings of fact, which are found by a
preponderance of the evidence, and conclusions of law. To the
extent that any findings of fact may be considered
conclusions of law, they shall be deemed conclusions of law,
and to the extent that any conclusions of law may be
considered findings of fact, they shall be deemed findings of
fact. After considering the admissible evidence and the
parties' stipulations, and upon assessing the
witnesses' credibility, the court finds that the
Code's contribution limits do not violate the First
Amendment or the Equal Protection Clause.
Illinois Campaign Finance Law
Illinois Disclosure and Regulation of Campaign Contributions
and Expenditures Act ("the Act"), 10 ILCS 5/9-1
etseq., which is codified as part of the Illinois
Election Code, recognizes three classes of political
contributors: (1) individuals; (2) political committees; and
(3) corporations, labor unions, and other associations. 10
There are several different types of political committees,
including candidate political committees, political party
committees, and PACs. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(a).
Individuals may contribute $5, 000 to a candidate in a given
election cycle. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b).
Individuals may contribute $10, 000 to a PAC per election
cycle; the same limit applies to an individual's
contributions to a political party committee per election
cycle. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(c)-(d).
PAC, defined as a group of people or an organization
"that accepts contributions or makes expenditures during
any 12-month period in an aggregate amount exceeding $5, 000
on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate, " 10 ILCS
5/9-1.8(d), may contribute $50, 000 to a candidate during an
election cycle. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b).
political party committee is the state, county, or
ward/township committee of a political party, or a
legislative caucus committee. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(c).
contrast to individuals and PACs, political party committees
may contribute unlimited amounts to a candidate during a
general election. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(b).
During a primary election, political party committees are
subject to a $200, 000 contribution limit to a candidate for
statewide office; a $125, 000 limit for state senate
elections and certain judicial and county elections; a $75,
000 limit for state representative elections and certain
judicial and county elections; and $50, 000 for all other
Political party committees may contribute $20, 000 to a PAC
in a given election cycle. 10 ILCS 5/9-8.5(d).
foregoing amounts are adjusted regularly for inflation. 10
is a Class A misdemeanor for a candidate to accept a
contribution exceeding the applicable limit. 10 ILCS
noted, one type of political party committee is a legislative
caucus committee. 10 ILCS 5/9-1.8(c).
legislative caucus committee is "a committee established
for the purpose of electing candidates to the General
legislative caucus committee may be formed by each of the
majority and minority leaders of the state House and
Senate-i.e., the Speaker and Minority Leader of the
House, and the President and Minority Leader of the Senate-or
by a committee of five state senators or ten state
representatives of the same caucus. Ibid.
contribution limits on legislative caucus committees are the
same as those imposed on other political party committees. 10
ILCS 5/9-8.5(b). A candidate may accept contributions from
only one legislative caucus committee per election cycle.
Ibid. There is no similar limitation on a
candidate's receipt of contributions from other political
"election cycle" consists of either a primary
election or a general election. 1/26/16 Tr. at 207:3-6.
Therefore, a political candidate may receive contributions
from one legislative caucus committee during the primary
election and from another legislative caucus committee in the
general election. Id. at 209:21-24.
ease of reference, the court uses the term "political
party" to refer to a political party and its affiliated
committees other than a legislative caucus committee, and the
term "candidate" to refer to a candidate and his or
her affiliated campaign committee.
Plaintiffs claim that the Act's treatment of legislative
caucus committees as political party committees, and its
favorable treatment of legislative caucus committees as
compared to PACs, individuals, and corporations, are
unconstitutional. 1/25/16 Tr. at 7:17-24. They 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. Id. at
9:11-22; see also PI. Exh. 1 at 13 ("The
benefits provided to Legislative Caucus Committees are
unwarranted because they operate more like political action
committees than party committees."). 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. 1/25/16 Tr. at 11:3-9.
Illinois Liberty PAC
Illinois Liberty PAC is a political action committee that
donates funds to candidates running for election to the
Illinois General Assembly. Doc. 178 at p. 17, ¶ 1;
1/25/16 Tr. at 51:14-21. The PAC provides financial
contributions to candidates who support free market
principles. 1/25/16 Tr. at 51:14-17.
Illinois Liberty PAC wishes to contribute larger amounts of
money to candidates for state office than the Illinois
Election Code currently allows. Id. at 54:12-15.
there were no contribution limits (or, presumably, if there
were more generous ones), Illinois Liberty PAC would adopt a
different contribution strategy. Id. at 56:6-9.
Illinois Liberty PAC is not aligned with any political party
and would support any candidate that subscribed to a free
market philosophy. Id. at 59:13-17.
Illinois Liberty PAC does not advocate for a slate of
candidates, and nor does it determine who sits on legislative
committees or who obtains legislative leadership positions.
Id. at 59:18-60:20.
a PAC, Illinois Liberty PAC is not beholden to the electorate
and may not be voted into or out of office. Id. at
contribution limits placed on Illinois Liberty PAC apply
regardless of its viewpoint or the candidates to whom it
contributes. Id. at 61:1-25.
Edgar Bachrach is an individual who makes contributions to
PACs and political candidates. Doc. 178 at p. 17, ¶ 2;
1/25/16 Tr. at 19:15-21:19.
the 2012 election cycle, Bachrach contributed $5, 000 to
Citizens for Babcock, a campaign committee for Michael
Babcock, but he would have contributed more had the Act not
prevented him from doing so. 1/25/16 Tr. at 19:18-21:8.
the 2014 election cycle, Bachrach contributed $10, 500 to
Illinois Liberty PAC, but he would have contributed more if