Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, champion of post-Blagojevich campaign-finance reforms, signed legislation Friday that ditches those limits when super PACs enter a campaign.
The law allows candidates to ignore the state's first-ever caps on campaign contribution if a super PAC -- a political action committee operating independently of a politician -- pours money in on the other side.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic governor conceded it's a short-term fix to ensure campaign fairness since the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal ruling in Illinois put a crimp on enforcing limits on such outside groups, giving rise to super PACs with deep pockets.
"This new law is necessary to keep the playing field as level as possible," Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said. "This issue absolutely requires more analysis and more study to figure out what the best long-term reforms might be."
Just three years ago, Quinn signed into law campaign-cash limits in Illinois after his two predecessors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, landed in federal prison for political crimes. But the law just took effect this year.
Generally, it restricts contributions to a candidate to $10,000 for individuals, $20,000 for corporations, labor groups or political parties, and $50,000 from political action committees or the candidate's committee.
The law Quinn approved Friday allows politicians to forgo those limits if a super PAC tops $100,000 in contributions to an opponent in a local or legislative race or $250,000 in a statewide race.
"Gov. Quinn's signature on this bill has carved a large loophole into the campaign contribution limits law," said Brian Gladstein, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform."He has made it easier for large campaign contributors to buy political favors."
Gladstein says the law does not clearly define what a super PAC is and he fears they could quietly coordinate with a candidate. He says the law should require more super PAC disclosure, too.
Thompson says long-term reforms are still under consideration by the Illinois Campaign Finance Reform Task Force, which the Legislature created to study the 2009 law and its implementation and which must issue a report next winter.
But task force member Deborah Harrington, co-chairwoman of a group called CHANGE Illinois!, criticized lawmakers in a statement for rushing the process and not consulting the task force.