Il activists watching campaign finance case before the U.S. Supreme Court

Oct 7, 2013

The last U.S. Supreme Court decision to have a major impact on campaign finance was "Citizens United", a decision that led to the rise of so-called "Super PACs" across the nation, including in Illinois. As IPR'S Amanda Vinicky reports, another high-profile case before the court Tuesday has activists on alert.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform's David Morrison says he did not pay all that much attention back in 2010 when the Citizens United case was argued in Washington.  The case asked if corporations could give cash to federal candidates. Illinois already allowed that, so it was presumed the case wouldn't have an impact.

"We, I guess, dropped the ball on Citizen's United, and then kind of got steamrollered when the Supreme Court said not only can corporations spend, but they can spend because there's no risk of corruption from this kind of activity."

He says that ended up having huge implications for Illinois, as the state for the first time imposed limits on campaign contributions. The Citizens United case made way for Super PACs, which can raise and spend all the money they want.

Morrison says likewise, it appears the McCutcheon case pending before the high court has no significance for Illinois. It seeks to lift a federal cap on how much a person can give in a year to all candidates. Illinois has no such overall limit. But Morrison says, as with Citizens United, the Supreme Court could go further, making it harder to justify any limits on campaign giving.