The ACLU of Illinois challenged a 2009 amendment to the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act that increased registration fees from $350 to $1,000 per lobbyist and each organization that employs a full-time lobbyist. The law also exempted from this fee media organizations and some religious groups. The new fee was far more than what other states (save one) or the federal government charge. Our lawsuit alleged that the fee violated the First Amendment rights to speech, association, and petition, because the higher fee is more than necessary to administer the lobbying registration rules and because of the discriminatory exemptions in the law.
In late December 2009, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order barring collection of the fee from any non-profit organization and their employees in Illinois. In early 2010, the court issued a preliminary injunction, holding that the $1,000 fee violated the First Amendment. Shortly afterward, the court granted the ACLU’s unopposed motion to consolidate the preliminary injunction hearing with the trial on the merits, and to issue permanent injunctive and declaratory relief. The $1,000 fee is permanently barred. In June 2010, the Illinois General Assembly adopted and sent the Governor a bill that creates a fee of $300 for each lobbyist and $300 for each organization. The ACLU of Illinois remained neutral on that bill. In August 2010, Judge Gottschall granted the voluntary dismissal of the claims challenging the religious and press exemptions.