It looks like at least one Super PAC will be active in the New York City mayor’s race after all. An appeals court has reversed a lower-court’s decision refusing to enjoin the New York law barring unlimited contributions to a political committee that makes only independent expenditures and not direct contributions to candidates.
The appeals court said that “[f]ew contested legal questions are answered so consistently by so many courts and judges.” The court cited 11 cases upholding the right to make unlimited contributions to independent expenditure committees.
The appeals court then criticized the lower court for focusing on the hardship to the electoral system and ignoring the harm to the Super PAC and its donors. The court explained that “[e]very sum that a donor is forbidden to contribute to [the Super PAC] because of this statute reduces constitutionally protected political speech.” As such, the court held that the harm to the plaintiffs was far greater than changing the contribution rules just before an election.
The ruling applies only to the named plaintiff, New York Progress and Protection PAC. It will be interesting to see whether the New York authorities announce that they will allow Super PACs to operate pending the final outcome of the case or whether they will seek an emergency appeal. Other organizations could also choose to rush into court to obtain their own injunctions or may simply start raising and spending money and take their chances.