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Supreme Court Holds “Pay to Play” is Fair Play
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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals court judgment that held New York City’s “pay to play” anti-corruption campaign finance rules did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s free speech rights. The judgment sought to be reviewed was made in December by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that decision, the Court of Appeals held that the city’s rules that prohibited corporate contributions to political campaigns, and that required candidates to disclose all contributions from individuals and organizations that do business with the city were justified for preventing corruption.

The appeal came from a lawsuit against the city filed by New York Republican politician Tom Ognibene and others, who argued that the city’s law requiring disclosure of contributions in political campaigns was overruled by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

However, the appeals court held otherwise and ruled that the Citizens United decision was not applicable to contributions limits. Ognibene appealed but the Supreme Court denied his motion for a Certiorari.

  
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On the same day, the Supreme Court also reversed a Montana ruling that relied on Citizens United and limited business political campaign spending. After Citizens United, independent spending is starting to dwarf campaign spending. According to the lawyer of Ognibene, the decision of the court made it clear that the only way to “level the playing field” for candidates is to raise their limits as well.

Jane Gordon of the New York City Law Department said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision “underscores the importance of reasonable and effective campaign finance reforms…. The city’s highly regarded Campaign Finance Law addresses a significant governmental interest in reducing corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The case is Ognibene et al v. Parkes et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-1153.

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