New Report Highlights Questionable Spending in 2004 Illinois Supreme Court Election

In a recent report for the Center for American Progress, authors Billy Corriher and Brent DeBeaumont highlight allegations that State Farm violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the 2004 Illinois Supreme Court election by secretly contributing to the campaign of Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier. Prior to the 2004 election, State Farm appealed a case to the Illinois Supreme Court in which they were ordered to pay over $1 billion for breaching a clause in their automobile insurance contract. The case, Avery v. State Farm, remained pending during the 2004 election cycle, during which State Farm and its employees contributed $350,000 to Justice Karmeier’s campaign. After winning the election, Justice Karmeier refused to recuse himself from the case, and in 2005, he joined the majority in overturning the ruling against State Farm.

In 2009, in light of the Caperton v. Massey ruling, the plaintiffs’ counsel in Avery “launched an investigation to determine whether State Farm’s financial involvement in Justice Karmeier’s 2004 campaign had been fully disclosed. The plaintiffs claim to have uncovered additional evidence that proves that Justice Karmeier’s conflict of interest was just as significant as the conflict of interest in Caperton. As with the donations from Massey Coal, State Farm had a ‘stake in a particular case’ that was ‘pending or imminent’ at the time that it ‘rais[ed] funds or direct[ed] the judge’s election campaign.'” Information uncovered by retired FBI Special Agent Daniel Reece led the plaintiffs to believe that “as much as $4 million given to Justice Karmeier’s campaign came from State Farm or entities strongly influenced by State Farm executives.” The authors note, “This newly unearthed evidence suggests that State Farm deliberately concealed the extent of its financial support for Justice Karmeier’s 2004 campaign by funneling money through a trade association, a political action committee, and a political party–all with the goal of reversing the $1 billion verdict against the company.”

**From the Brennan Center for Justice on Judicial Campaign Contributions and Recusal Rules**