Judge Nixes Part of Illinois Campaign Finance Law
A federal judge in Chicago has declared part of Illinois' campaign finance law unconstitutional.
According to the ruling, the state cannot enforce contribution limits on independent political action committees, which are prohibited from coordinating with candidates or political parties. Nationally they have become a big issue in the Republican presidential contest, with the so-called Super PACs spending millions of dollars.
The Illinois lawsuit was brought by Personal PAC, an abortion-rights group.
"We weren't taking a position on the rightness or wrongness of contribution limits," said Terry Cosgrove, who is Personal PAC's president. "We were just saying we wanted to be treated like everyone else."
Cosgrove said out-of state groups like Wisconsin Right-to-Life can already raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. He said until Tuesday's decision, that gave those other groups an unfair advantage.
"The playing field is now level, and we are very happy that we will be allowed to raise the necessary funds to advocate for reproductive rights in Illinois," Cosgrove said.
Critics say the ruling could open the way for Super PACs in Illinois. At the national level, Super PACs have become notorious for allowing millions of dollars to flow into the presidential contest.
"The district court ruling today opens the door to a whole host of committees," said David Morrison of the watchdog group, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "Not just the plaintiff in this case, but a whole bunch of groups could jump in with a lot of money. It could change the dynamic of a number of races around the state."
Opponents had asked the court to consider Illinois' history of corruption. But Judge Marvin Aspen based his ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says political contributions are a matter of free speech.