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Monday, October 8, 2012

Illinois Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Constitutional

Illinois law requires that anyone who accepts contributions, makes expenditures, or sponsors electioneering communications in any amount over $3,000 must make regular financial disclosures to the State Board of Elections.  The Seventh Circuit recently upheld these campaign finance disclosure laws as constitutional. Center for Individual Freedom v. Madigan, 2012 WL 3930437. 

The Center for Individual Freedom wanted to sponsor mass media advertisements for candidates in the 2010 Illinois elections.  However, because the Center was concerned that it would have to register as a PAC and disclose its election-related expenditures and the identity of its donors, it filed a lawsuit against the state.  The Center argued that the disclosure requirements were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of its First Amendment protection of speech.  The district court ruled against the Center, who then appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that unlike campaign contribution and expenditure limits, disclosure laws “do not prevent anyone from speaking.”  In upholding the constitutionality of the state disclosure laws, the Seventh Circuit held that campaign finance disclosure laws must strike a balance between protecting individual speakers from invasions of privacy and harassment, while enabling transparency and accountability in political campaigns. In this case, the Court found that the disclosure requirements were substantially related to the state’s significant interest in ensuring an informed electorate and struck the appropriate balance to be constitutional.

Post Authored by Heather Kimmons and Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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