A proposal in Springfield would throw campaign contribution limits for candidates out the window when super PACs spend large amounts of money in their campaigns. State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago, pictured) says there’s no other choice given the political realities following the federal Personal PAC decision. She says candidates would be fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. That’s because super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and saturate the media with negative ads while a candidate is too restricted to fight back.
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“We are trying to make sure candidates have a level playing field,” Currie says. “I don’t want to cede our democracy to the deepest pockets and the ones that have particular agendas that may not be the best for all the people of the state of Illinois.” She says if she had her way there would be no super PACs or a need for this proposal. But it’s making the best of a bad situation. “I’m not on the Supreme Court. It wasn’t my decision and until that decision is overturned I think we have to deal with the realities on the ground. I think the reality on the ground today in Illinois is the Personal PAC case,” Currie says.
The proposal would end contribution limits for candidates when a super PAC spends more than $250,000 in a statewide election or $100,000 in all others. The federal court, in Personal PAC vs. McGuffage, in March legalized super PACs in Illinois. That means the pro-choice PAC can raise unlimited amounts of money from almost whomever, including direct contributions from unions and corporations, and spend unlimited amounts for or against candidates so long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate’s campaign. It stems from the US Supreme Court Citizens’ United decision. Critics say those decisions give special interests an unreasonable amount of influence.
David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said in a statement that the proposal creates a loophole in the contribution limits law. “It is deeply discouraging to see this proposal today. It would build a bypass within the limits system and recreate a process where corruption could flourish,” Morrison says. The contribution limits law already waives the limits when a wealthy candidate spends above a threshold using personal money. If the House passes the proposal, it will go to the governor.