We live in interesting times as to the roles of money and influence in campaigns for office. In Illinois, the campaigns include elections of judges. Events related to a 2004 Illinois Supreme Court election are now at issue in a newly certified RICO class action against State Farm, which allegedly lied to the Illinois Supreme Court regarding its action related to the campaign of and election of Judge Karmeier. Other defendants include Ed Murnane, the president of Illinois Civil Justice League, and William G. Shepherd, who led a committee called Citizens for Karmeier. The case is Mark Hale et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company et al., case number 3:12-cv-0660 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The opinion is online.
In short, the claim is that State Farm suffered a $1 billion loss in a case, and wanted to overturn the ruling by electing a judge to the court that would review the verdict. As explained by Law360 in a September 16, 2016 article, “the RICO plaintiffs allege that State Farm deliberately sought to “recruit, finance, direct and elect a candidate to the Illinois Supreme Court who, once elected, would vote to overturn the $1.05 billion judgment,” in a plan hatched in 2003. ….The plaintiffs claim State Farm, acting in conjunction with Murnane, Shephard and the Illinois Civil Justice League, tapped into a network of contributors to pour as much as $4 million into Karmeier’s campaign — a sum representing about 80 percent of the campaign’s contributions. The crux of the RICO allegations are two communications conducted through the U.S. Postal Service: written misrepresentations allegedly sent to the Illinois Supreme Court and to the plaintiffs’ counsel in 2005 and 2011 regarding the magnitude of the insurer’s financial support to Karmeier’s campaign.”
The allegations include claims that State Farm sent $1 million to the US Chamber of Commerce to obtain the election of Judge Karmeier. The big picture story has been told many times in various contexts, with some described in an March 5, 2014 article in the Cook County Record, and a September 16, 2011 article at Legal NewsLine. A more detailed review of the allegations is set out in an August 14, 2013 article by the Center for American Progress. The 2012 version of the complaint is online here.