September 6, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. l:18-cv-04947 -
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Easterbrook, Kanne, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
Brennan, Circuit Judge
provision of the Illinois Election Code limits how much money
entities can contribute to political campaigns. But in some
races, Illinois lifts these limits, allowing certain entities
to make unlimited campaign contributions and coordinate
unlimited spending with candidates. Illinois Liberty PAC, an
independent expenditure committee, is not one of these
entities; indeed, Illinois bans all independent expenditure
committees from making campaign contributions and from
coordinating spending with candidates.
Dan Proft and the Illinois Liberty PAC do not attack the
entire contribution and coordination ban enforced against
independent expenditure committees. Rather, they seek to
overturn the ban only when unlimited contributions and
unlimited coordinated expenditures are allowed for others.
Otherwise, plaintiffs claim, Illinois's ban violates the
First Amendment rights of free speech and free association
and the Fourteenth Amendment right of equal protection.
a constitutional violation exists here depends on if the
contribution and coordination ban is closely drawn to prevent
corruption or the appearance of corruption. Because striking
down the ban would increase the risk of corruption and
circumvent other election code sections that work to prevent
political corruption, we affirm the district court's
dismissal of this suit and denial of plaintiffs' motion
for a preliminary injunction.
The Illinois Election Code
many states, Illinois permits political contributions by
individuals, corporations, unions, associations, political
action committees ("PACs"), and political parties.
Illinois limits how much money these groups may contribute to
a political campaign. See 10 ILL. COMP. Stat.
5/9-8.5(b). Individuals may contribute up to $5, 000;
corporations, unions, and associations may donate up to $10,
000; and PACs may provide up to $50, 000. Id. The
Illinois Election Code does not limit contributions by a
political party in a general election, but it does limit a
political party's contributions in a primary election.
many other states, Illinois lifts these contribution limits
in some races. If a candidate's self-funding exceeds
$250, 000 in a race for statewide office, or $100, 000 in any
other race, or if spending by an independent
expenditure committee or individual exceeds either of these
limits, the Illinois Election Code waives contribution limits
for all candidates in that race. 10 ILL. COMP. Stat.
5/9-8.5(h), (h-5). In short, the code allows individuals and
certain entities to contribute to and coordinate with
candidates without limits when self-funding or independent
expenditures exceed a threshold amount.
addition to regulating contributions to candidates, the
Illinois Election Code regulates independent expenditures.
Those expenditures are (1) "any payment, gift, donation,
or expenditure of funds," (2) used "for the purpose
of making electioneering communications" or for
advocating in support of a candidate or against a candidate,
and (3) not made in coordination with a campaign. 10 ILL.
COMP. Stat. 5/9-1.15. Before making political expenditures
exceeding $3, 000 in a 12-month period, the Illinois Election
Code requires any entity (other than an individual) to first
register as a political committee. 10 ILL. COMP. Stat.
independent expenditure committee is a type of polical
committee that may "accept unlimited contributions from
any source, provided  the independent expenditure committee
does not make contributions to any candidate ..., political
party committee, or [PAC]." 10 ILL. COMP. Stat.
5/9-3(d-5). The Illinois Election Code never permits
independent expenditure committees to contribute to
candidates, even when contribution limits are lifted for
individuals and other entities. If an independent expenditure
committee violates the code by contributing to a candidate,
party, or PAC, the Illinois State Board of Elections assesses
a fine on the independent expenditure committee "equal
to the amount of any contribution received in the preceding 2
years by the independent expenditure committee that exceeded
the limits  a [PAC]" may accept in an election cycle.
10 ILL. COMP. Stat. 5/9-8.6(d). In effect, the Illinois
Election Code grants independent expenditure committees a
trade-off-they can raise unlimited funds for independent
expenditures, but they risk heavy fines if those funds are
contributed to candidates, parties, or PACs.
Claims by Proft and ...