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Monday, September 26, 2016

Court Dismisses Campaign Disclosure Act Case

It's election season, so we are going to see a lot more election-related cases over the next few months. In Streit v. Illinois State Board of Elections, the court addressed an alleged violation of the Campaign Disclosure Act. 

The Campaign Disclosure Act requires, among other things, that any political committee that makes an expenditure for any communication that is (1) directed at voters and (2) mentions the name of a candidate in an upcoming election must include language in the communication identifying the name of the political committee that paid for any part of the communication. Streit (a Trustee in the Village's Third District) had filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections alleging that a registered political committee had violated the Act when it mailed a letter to residents of the Third District endorsing his opponent over him without including language identifying who paid for the mailing. 

The Board conducted a hearing, at which Streit produced a copy of one of the alleged letters addressed to a Village resident. In defense, the committee produced copies of other letters that were sent out that expressly included the language "Paid for by Sandra Bury for Mayor of Oak Lawn." The Board considered the evidence produced by both sides, and dismissed Streit's complaint, finding that it was filed without justifiable grounds. 

Streit appealed, and the appellate court upheld the dismissal of Streit's complaint. The court determined that Streit's complaint relied solely on one exhibit (the letter allegedly sent to a resident), which had not been authenticated or verified. On the other hand, Bury had testified under oath that the mailings sent out to residents contained the "paid for" language. 

Streit also argued that the Board violated the OMA because it made its decision in closed session, without publicly articulating the reasons for the dismissal of his complaint. The court rejected that argument, finding it was waived because Streit didn't raise this issue until his reply brief.

Although the court found no violation of the Act in this case, it is a good reminder to candidates to make sure they comply with applicable disclosure requirements.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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