CIVIC CENTER — In a late-inning boost to Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday reversed a lower court's decision upholding a state law limiting individual donations to PACs at $150,000.
The ruling removes the cap on how much an individual can donate to the pro-Lhota PAC New York Progress and Protection, which is funded primarily by out-of-state Republican donors.
“The hardship faced by [New York Progress and Protection] and its donors from the denial of relief is significant. Every sum that a donor is forbidden to contribute to NYPPP because of this statute reduces constitutionally protected political speech,” the panel of judges wrote in its decision.
The ruling reaffirmed the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision that ruled that political spending was constitutionally protected free speech.
Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for Bill de Blasio’s campaign, assailed the ruling as a giveaway to “right-wing billionaires, like the Koch Brothers, and Tea Party groups who support Joe Lhota,” claiming the decision will “drown out the voices of New Yorkers.”
“The stakes are too high to let the same Republican extremists who shut down the government hijack the mayoral election,” Smith said.
A spokeswoman for the Lhota campaign declined to comment on the decision.
Lhota’s campaign has struggled to both compete with de Blasio financially, and to make a dent in the Democratic nominee’s sizable lead in the polls. The mayoral election will be held on November 5.