Federal Court Blocks New York Law Limiting Political Contributions


Conservative supporters of Joe Lhota may not leave the New York City mayoral election empty-handed after all. A federal appeals court on Thursday sided with a Lhota-supporting conservative group that is challenging a New York state law that limits political donations.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision, and granted an injunction that will allow the group, New York Progress and Protection PAC (NYPPP), to accept donations larger than $150,000. NYPPP claims that it has a donor who has promised to give the group more than $150,000 to support its efforts. The ruling comes less than two weeks before election day. Lhota’s opponent, Democrat Bill de Blasio, is heavily favored to win.

NYPPP first filed suit in late September over a state law that places a $150,000 limit on some political contributions by individuals in New York state. NYPPP requested an injunction so that it could accept a larger contribution before election day, but a district court denied the group’s motion on Oct. 18. In reversing that decision on Thursday, the appeals court ruled that “plaintiffs here has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.” 

“The hardship faced by NYPPP and its donors from the denial of relief is significant,” the court ruled. “Every sum that a donor is forbidden to contribute to NYPPP because of this statute reduces constitutionally protected political speech. Much of the district court’s analysis of hardship focuses on hardship to the election system arising from the timing of this suit and this motion for a preliminary injunction. But as the Supreme Court has emphasized, the value of political speech is at its zenith at election time.”

According to The New York Times, Shaun McCutcheon, a conservative donor from Alabama, has pledged to donate at least $200,000 to NYPPP. But the group has yet to report spending any money supporting Lhota, and “it is not clear how many people would be willing to contribute given the overwhelming lead in the polls held by the Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio.”