Group urges New York to implement Supreme Court decision in contribution limits case

For Release: April 30, 2014    Contact: Joe Trotter    Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)

Alexandria, Va. — A First Amendment advocacy group today urged the governor, Attorney General, and other New York officials to repeal a state campaign contribution limit law and halt its enforcement because the law is likely unconstitutional following the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month in the case McCutcheon v. FEC.

A letter sent by David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), urges state officials “to take quick action to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, in order to ensure New York does not continue to violate its citizens’ First Amendment rights.” The letter says New York has a law that is “essentially identical” to the federal law that was declared unconstitutional. “To ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, New York should repeal [its law] as soon as possible. Until the law is repealed or otherwise amended in order to comply with the Court’s ruling, we urge the Attorney General and other state officials who have responsibility to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws to immediately announce that this law will no longer be enforced.”

In McCutcheon, the Court ruled that citizens could not be limited in how much they spend overall on contributions to political candidates, parties, and PACs in each election cycle. The Court did not strike down limits on donations to any single candidate, but rather the aggregate limit on donations to all candidates. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the Court, “[t]he Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”

The letter warns that “[i]f New York fails to either amend or repeal this statute to conform to the Court’s ruling, it risks a lawsuit. CCP has provided pro bono representation in similar situations, and would strongly consider doing so here as well. Such legal action would cost the state money defending the case, and would distract the Attorney General’s office from other important legal work. Additionally, if the state chooses to defend the law in court, it is probable that the state will have to pay substantial legal fees to successful plaintiffs.”

Two states, Massachusetts and Maryland, have already announced that they will no longer enforce their aggregate limits. The Rhode Island State Board of Elections announced that it would support legislation that would repeal the state’s aggregate limit provision, and some or all of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s provisions are currently being challenged in court.

Similar letters will be sent to officials in as many as 17 other states and the District of Columbia outlining why each jurisdiction’s laws require immediate revision.

A copy of CCP’s letter to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is available here. Identical letters were sent to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Senate Elections Committee Chairman Thomas O’Mara, Assembly Election Law Committee Chairman Michael Cusick, and New York State Board of Elections Co-Chair James Walsh and Co-Chair Douglas Kellner.

About the Center for Competitive Politics

The Center for Competitive Politics is one of the nation’s premier centers of public interest litigation. It is the only public interest law firm with in-house litigation staff solely focused on the defense of First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly and petition. CCP was co-counsel in v. Federal Election Commission, which held that there can be no limits on contributions to independent expenditure committees. This case created what is now known as Super PACs. CCP’s amicus brief was cited in the majority opinion in the Citizens United case. CCP’s legal team represents two cases now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.