As much as NYC mayoral candidate Joe Lhota has tried to divorce himself from the national, shutdown Republicans, he’s eager and ready to benefit from one of their signature goals: abolishing campaign finance reform. Yesterday, a federal appellate court ruled in favor of a pro-Lhota PAC, saying that New York State’s $150,000 annual limit on individual contributions to political action committees “reduces constitutionally protected political speech.”
This latest money-is-speech decision allows the pro-Lhota group, New York Progress and Protection PAC (NYPPP), to immediately accept a $200,000 donation from an Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon. (McCutcheon just happens to be waging a similar battle in the US Supreme Court.)
NYPPP, by the way, is not to be confused with another Lhota-supporting PAC, New Yorkers for Proven Leadership, which was financed largely by right-wing billionaire David Koch and ran ads on Lhota’s behalf during the primaries. But this latest ruling can free up “speech” for billionaires everywhere.
Lis Smith, spokeswoman for Democrat Bill de Blasio, slammed the decision by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, saying it “will empower the right-wing billionaires, like the Koch [b]rothers, and Tea Party groups who support Joe Lhota to drown out the voices of New Yorkers.”
The de Blasio campaign also released the web ad above. “The Koch brothers, the secretive oil billionaires,” it says, have “set their sights on New York City” trying “to elect extreme rightwing ideologues here in New York City. And their billionaire friends are trying to change the rules with a lawsuit…so they can funnel millions of dollars more to defeat Bill de Blasio and elect their Tea Party friends into office.”
Although the sky’s now the limit in how much an individual can give to the NYPPP, the conventional wisdom is that it’s too late to help Lhota.
In today’s New York Times, for instance Thomas Caplan, writes, “The ruling, 12 days before the mayoral election, is not likely to change the dynamics of the race, given the wide lead of the Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, and a presumed reluctance by many potential big donors to donate to an underdog candidate this late in the game.” (The Times figures that the decision will, however, “have a much bigger impact next year” in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid and other New York state races.)