Ill. Campaign Finance Limits Remain Through Election, Court Rules

By: - October 25, 2012 12:00 am

An Illinois law limiting contributions to political candidates will remain in effect, at least until the election.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday (October 24) denied a challenge to the law brought by the Illinois Liberty Political Action Committee. A district court had also denied the group’s earlier request for a preliminary injunction against the 2009 law, which limits individual donations to ,000, while allowing ,000 from unions or corporations and ,000 from political action committees. The PAC appealed that decision and asked the higher court to stop the law while its appeal was pending.

“We agree with the district court that the appellants have not shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to contribution limits,” the Chicago-based court said in a brief order. The case will return to the lower court.

The PAC, which says it supports “free market” and “liberty-based” policy, challenged the limits, arguing they violate free speech and the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The case is part of the fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which established that the federal government may not bar direct corporate and union spending on advertising for candidates — a ruling that spurred challenges to state limits on financing.

Only four states — Missouri, Oregon, Utah and Virginia — place no limits on contributions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Seven states limit or prohibit contributions by corporations and unions but leave all other giving uncapped. The remaining 39 states limit or bar contributions from categories across the board.

The Illinois ruling is the second consecutive setback for challengers of state caps on campaign donations. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn an appeals court ruling that upheld Montana’s campaign finance limits, keeping them in place through the election.

A lower court had blocked Montana’s law, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Montana showed it could likely succeed upon appeal.

“In light of Montana’s interest in regulating campaign contributions, the lack of evidence that other parties will be substantially injured, and the public’s substantial interest in the stability of its electoral system in the final weeks leading to an election, we will stay the order pending the state’s appeal,” the majority wrote.

That decision has already impacted Montana’s race for governor. On Wednesday, a state district judge ordered Republican candidate Rick Hill to stop spending a ,000 donation and cancel the pending ads he purchased with it, the Missoulian reported. The judge is reviewing the court’s decision and will hold a hearing on Monday.

Hill’s Democratic opponent, Steve Bullock, contends the donation eclipses the state’s limit of ,600 that a political party may donate to a campaign for governor. Hill argues the donation is legal because he received it days before the appeals court kept Montana’s law in place, the paper reported.

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