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Federal court upholds Ill. campaign spending disclosure law

(via Flickr/steakpinball)

A federal appeals court has upheld the Illinois law that requires disclosure of most campaign spending by groups in excess of $3,000.

The challenge to the law the came from the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom, a 501(c)4 that in 2010 planned to run ads in Illinois that addressed "legal reform and other justice-related issues." According to yesterday's opinion from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Center's donors require anonymity in exchange for their support, and the group worried about running afoul of the disclosure requirement. For that reason, the Center did not run issue ads in Illinois, and therefore the laws unconstitutionally chilled its political speech.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court disagreed with the Center's argument that Illinois' disclosure laws were overbroad or too vague. Writing for the majority, Judge David Hamilton wrote:

"[The Center's] broad “interest in anonymity” does not justify  invalidating disclosure laws in a facial challenge brought by a  national political advocacy  organization that seeks to use the mass media in Illinois to spread its political messages on a broad  scale. That  is  exactly the sort of campaign-related advertising about  which Illinois has a  substantial interest in providing  information to its public."

In a partial dissent, Judge Richard Posner wrote that while he agreed with the majority of Hamilton's reasoning, he felt that several provisions of Illinois' disclosure law were unconstitutionally vague.

  • See more stories on issues and elections from St. Louis Public Radio, the St. Louis Beacon and Nine Network of Public Media at BeyondNovember.org.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.