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Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Monday, July 23, 2012

Volunteer Work for Political Committee Not a Political Contribution

Plaintiff filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections, claiming that the Citizens for Wilmette Schools (a political committee under the Election Code) violated the Illinois Election Code by failing to timely disclose an in-kind contribution.  The alleged "contribution" consisted of volunteer work by a self-employed graphics and website designer to design a website for the political committee.  According to the complaint, these volunteer services were valued at $3,435. 

Although the political committee had disclosed the contribution on April 15, 2011 in its quarterly report to the Board, the plaintiff claimed that was untimely because the Election Code requires any contribution in excess of $1,000 to be reported in the thirty-day period before an election, which was held on April 5, 2011.  At the preliminary hearing, the committee’s counsel advised the hearing officer that the committee had removed the contribution from its report on the basis that volunteering efforts do not have to be reported as contributions, and that the First Amendment protects an individual's right to voluntarily provide services.  The hearing officer agreed and recommended to the Board that no further action be taken on the complaint.  The Board dismissed the complaint, finding that plaintiff's complaint was not filed on justifiable grounds.

On appeal, the appellate court upheld the Board’s dismissal of the complaint.  Herbert Sorock v. Illinois State Board of Elections and Citizens for Wilmette Schools, 2012 IL App (1st) 112740, (July 13, 2012). First, the court determined that while Gottlieb did create the website, she had nothing to do with the contents of the website.   The court held that the volunteer time and contribution were not “electioneering communications” under the Election Code.  Second, the court expressed concerns about First Amendment protections.  If volunteering time were construed as a contribution, and reporting were required, the names and addresses of these volunteers would be subject to public disclosure.  Requiring the reporting of all volunteering efforts could have a chilling effect on a person’s right to association. 

Post Authored by Perry Kendall, Ancel Glink.


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