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Federal judge throws out part of Illinois campaign finance law

Updated: April 15, 2012 8:14AM

SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge Tuesday struck down two pieces of a 2009 Illinois law designed to cap campaign contributions, a ruling one government watchdog said will “open the door to a risk of corruption.”

U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen sided with Personal PAC, the abortion-rights group that argued the state campaign-finance law violated its free-speech protections in the U.S. Constitution.

The state provisions that were challenged limited individual contributions at $10,000 to political-action committees that raise and spend money independently of candidates and barred any individuals or groups from maintaining more than one PAC.

Aspen based his decision on the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case and in a separate Wisconsin case that declared caps on such PACs as unconstitutional.

“In the absence of an injunction, Personal PAC will be limited in how it can contribute to the free discussion of candidates and government affairs,” Aspen wrote in his ruling.

The abortion-rights group’s president and CEO, Terry Cosgrove, praised the decision, saying it brings Illinois into conformity with federal law and that it will enable his organization “to raise the necessary funds to effectively advocate for the rights of women and girls in Illinois.”

But the watchdog group that helped establish the state campaign-finance law said Aspen’s ruling would bring “super PACs” to Illinois.

“As we have already seen at the federal level, super PACs open the door to a risk of corruption by allowing enormous donations from one contributor to be dedicated to the candidate of their choosing,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

“Where a political committee can exist for the benefit of one candidate, staffed by that candidate’s close associates and funded by that candidates’ largest supporters, there is a great risk of actual or perceived corruption,” he said.

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