Shari Gottlieb, a self-employed web designer, volunteered her services and designed a website which was used by Citizens for Wilmette Schools (committee). She sent the committee notice of an in-kind contribution valuing her work at $3,435. The committee did not file a schedule A-1 form for Gottlieb’s work, which is required for contributions greater than $1,000. After the election, the committee included Gottlieb’s work in its quarterly D-2 report, but later amended the D-2 to remove Gottlieb’s work. Wilmette resident Herbert Sorock filed a complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections (board) which was dismissed.
Sorock appealed the dismissal arguing that the board improperly interpreted two relevant provisions of the election code. Sorock argued that Gottlieb’s time was an in-kind contribution under the statute and should have been reported. Alternatively, he argued that Gottlieb’s work meets the statutory definition of an electioneering communication and was therefore subject to disclosure. The court agreed with the board’s decision that Gottlieb’s work was not an in-kind contribution. The section of the statute which defines contributions provides that “any individual services provided voluntarily and without promise or expectation of compensation from any source shall not be deemed a contribution”. The court agreed with the board’s decision that Gottlieb’s work qualified for this exception and was not a contribution. The court concluded that the work could not be an electioneering communication because it did not communicate anything. As a web designer, Gottlieb had designed and programmed a graphical layout but had not authored the language of the site. The court affirmed the decision of the board, dismissing Sorock’s complaint.
Jared Boyer, IASB Extern