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Federal appeals court upholds Illinois campaign donor disclosure law

The US Court of Appeals for the Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] an Illinois state law that requires all organizations to disclose their funding sources, including groups that do not focus on elections. In a 2-1 ruling, the Seventh Circuit rejected arguments [Reuters report] by the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF) [advocacy website] that the law stifles freedom of speech. The CIF challenged the law after choosing not to advertise during the 2010 election cycle in order to protect donors who wished to remain anonymous. In upholding the law, the appeals court concluded, "[c]ampaign finance disclosure laws must strike a balance between protecting individual speakers from invasions of privacy and harassment on the one hand, and enabling transparency and accountability in political campaigns on the other. Illinois's laws do so sufficiently to survive this facial challenge." It is unclear whether the CIF plans to appeal.

In March a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] struck down [JURIST report] two recently-enacted parts of the Illinois Election Code [text] designed to cap campaign contributions. Judge Marvin Aspen issued an injunction [order, PDF] against the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) [official website] from enforcing § 5/9-8.5(d) prohibiting any political action committee (PAC) from accepting individual contributions over $10,000 and § 5/9-2(d) prohibiting any person from maintaining or establishing more than one PAC. Illinois campaign contribution restrictions were passed in 2009 as part of election reform efforts following the indictment of former governor Rod Blagojevich [personal website; JURIST news archive], who was arrested [JURIST report] in December 2008 on corruption charges including allegations that he conspired to sell the Senate seat left vacant by US President Barack Obama.

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