NYC Limits Lawsuit About Billionaires Buying Extra Helpings of Democracy

Washington, D.C.—New campaign finance filings in the New York City mayoral race shed new light on the reasoning behind, and impact of, a lawsuit challenging the state’s independent expenditure committee contribution limits, according to campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign Action Fund. The organization also pointed to the Moreland Commission’s upcoming policy recommendations as the next step in addressing the role of money in state elections.

The lawsuit was filed by Shaun McCutcheon and a political committee called New York Progress and Protection PAC, which was established to support Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota. In court documents and in press statements, McCutcheon said he wanted to give $200,000, which would violate the state legal limit of $150,000. A federal appeals court issued an injunction preventing the Board of Elections from enforcing the $150,000 limit last Thursday, paving the way for McCutcheon to make his donation.

Filings with the Board of Elections today show that McCutcheon donated just $20,000 to the political committee. Oil billionaire David Koch, one of the country’s most active and deep-pocketed conservative funders, donated $200,000.

“This lawsuit was never just about this one Alabama businessman wanting to make his voice heard, it was about billionaires and other wealthy donors being able to buy a second, third, and fourth helping of democracy,” said David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund. “The involvement by people like David Koch in this lawsuit should be a wake up call to those who believe our elections belong to all of us. These lawsuits that rip apart the very fabric of our campaign finance and voting laws are backed by the very deep-pocketed individuals who are spending significant sums in elections.”

McCutcheon is also the plaintiff in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case at the US Supreme Court challenging aggregate contribution limits, or how much individuals can give, overall, to federal candidates, party committees, and political action committees (PACs) each cycle. The Court heard arguments in the case on October 8th.

“In New York, the Moreland Commission ought to make policy recommendations to address the impact of this lawsuit,” continued Donnelly, referring to the state investigative body set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “They should recommend policy like the New York City matching fund system in no uncertain terms so that candidates will not be dependent upon, or be at the mercy of, well-financed outside groups.”