“Super PACs not bound by Illinois contribution limits, federal judge rules”

The Chicago Tribune reports on this opinion issued today.  Of particular interest is the question of whether the Supreme Court’s ruling on whether independent spending can corrupt is a factual or legal issue.  Here’s the court’s take:

In making this argument, Defendants contests the categorical rule that independent expenditures do not lead to quid pro quo corruption. The parties do not however argue that such a rule has not been adopted by the Seventh Circuit, and such an argument would have been unsuccessful. See e.g. Wisconsin Right to Life, 664 F.3d at 153 (“Citizens United thus held as a categorical matter that ‘independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.’”) (citing Citizens United, 130 S. Ct. at 910). Instead, Defendants argue that “[t]his history of political corruption [in Illinois] takes this case outside Citizens United, which was premised upon the idea that independent expenditures were free from the concerns of corruption presented by coordinated contributions to candidates. In Illinois, that premise simply does not apply.” (Opp’n at 7; see also Amicus at 10 (“[W]here there is . . . evidence that independent expenditures do lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption, Citizens United’s categorical imprimatur of independent expenditures as harmless should not be applied . . . this is such a case.”) (citing Western Tradition P’ship, Inc. v. Attorney General of the State of Mont., — P.3d —, 2011 WL 6888567 (Mont. Dec. 20, 2011)).4) Despite the opposing parties’ ample effort to disprove the premise of Citizens United, we decline the invitation to study Illinois’ political history. As the Seventh Circuit explained, “this is a legal issue, and resolving it does not require an evidentiary record.” Wisconsin Right to Life, 664 F.3d at 151. Regardless of what Defendants allege is a fallacy in Citizens United’s premise,it is not our province to modify the rulings of the Supreme Court or the Seventh Circuit. Justice Ginsberg [sic] recently stated such in a separate statement respecting the grant of the application for stay in Western Tradition, 2011 WL 6888567: “A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway. Because ˆit is not our province to modify the rulings of the Supreme Court or the Seventh Circuit. Justice Ginsberg [sic] recently stated such in a separate statement respecting the grant of the application for stay in Western Tradition, 2011 WL 6888567: “A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway. Because lower courts are bound to follow this Court’s decisions until they are withdrawn or modified, however, . . . I vote to grant the stay.” Order Granting Stay in Am. Tradition P’Ship, Inc. v. Bullock, fka Western Tradition, — U. S. —, 2012 WL 521107 (2012) (emphasis added) (citation omitted). As Defendants acknowledge, “If the Supreme Court grants a writ of certiorari in the Montana case, the parameters of Citizens United as applied to political climates of individual states may be explained.” Until that time, we, like the Montana Supreme Court, are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s decisions and repeat that, even in Illinois, independent expenditures do not lead to corruption. Thus, regulations imposing limits on fundraising by independent expenditure organizations cannot be justified—this applies equally to contribution limits as well as limits on the number of independent-expenditure PACs an individual or group may establish. Personal PAC has therefore demonstrated a better than negligible chance of prevailing on the merits, as well as inevitable actual success on the merits.

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