Illinois Bar Journal

January 2012Volume 100Number 1Page 8

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President’s Page

LAWPAC Needs Impact

It's more important than ever that you do your part to give lawyers a strong voice in Springfield.

To channel Jerry Maguire, help us help you.

To better protect your interests, ISBA created LAWPAC (the Illinois Lawyers' Political Action Committee) in 1978. It is vitally important to our profession that we have a strong voice in Springfield because, now more than ever, the legal profession is the victim of unfair attacks. I am asking you to make a contribution to LAWPAC.

Small contributions spread broadly

ISBA LAWPAC is a voluntary, unincorporated committee governed by a bipartisan board of trustees of four Republicans and four Democrats. Each ISBA president has the opportunity to nominate two trustees at the midyear meeting. LAWPAC's bylaws prohibit it from contributing to any candidate or committee other than for state senator or representative.

To encourage broad participation by our membership, LAWPAC has been funded solely by ISBA members who volunteer to add a $20 contribution to their annual dues statement. Typically, 15-20 percent of our membership elects to do this. This $20 contribution has been the same since 1978, which if adjusted for inflation, would now be $70. The ISBA believes that a small contribution spread broadly across our membership is the best way to protect your interests in Springfield.

The amounts raised by this $20 voluntary contribution are dwarfed by the amounts raised by other associations. ISBA raises about $50,000-$60,000 a year, which can undoubtedly be increased with the help of our loyal members. Just to give you an idea of what kind of fundraising takes place with other professions, consider the following: realtors raise 10 times more than we do, dentists raise seven times more, and CPAs two times more.

Nor do our efforts compare with our neighbors in Iowa. Despite being one-fifth our size, the Iowa State Bar Association takes in more for its PAC, using $50 contributions. The Pennsylvania Bar Association raises twice as much as we do by giving their members the option of adding $60 to their dues. The Ohio State Bar Association raises more than we do using a $15 option on their dues.

Playing tackle, not touch

The issues we currently face have a huge impact on our profession. We must work with other professional associations to ensure that the General Assembly does not impose a sales tax on professional services (an idea floated in every budget crisis). We must ensure that nonlawyers do not intrude on the court's authority to regulate lawyers and the practice of law. We must protect the independence of our judiciary and support funding for legal services to the indigent and working poor. We must support the efforts of our elder law attorneys to ensure that the Department of Healthcare and Family Services' new Medicaid-eligibility rules don't unfairly penalize seniors, their families, and lawyers who advised them. (For more about the new rules, see Diana Law's and Bill Siebers' article in this issue.)

The general assembly is filing more than 5,000 substantive bills every spring. We must be present at every turn.

It's time to get moving on this. We urgently need your help. We are respected and effective in Springfield, but we don't want to play touch football when everybody else is playing tackle. Although I believe that the merits of an issue ultimately determine public policy, we simply need to be more competitive and proactive in this part of advocacy to help make our case.

I ask that you consider contributing $50 to LAWPAC, or whatever other amount you feel is appropriate, to help us be more competitive. Please send your check payable to LAWPAC, at 424 South Second Street, Springfield, IL 62701.*

As diverse as we are, I can't guarantee that LAWPAC will always support candidates that you individually support in 118 house districts and 59 senate districts. But we must put ourselves in a better position to help those who stand up for the administration of justice and practice of law. Thanks in advance for your help.

* Please note that contributions or gifts to LAWPAC are not tax deductible. A copy of our report filed with the State Board of Elections is (or will be) available from the State Board of Elections, Springfield, Illinois.

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