NEW YORK, Dec 21 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on
Wednesday tossed out a challenge to New York City
anti-corruption campaign finance laws, finding the so-called
"pay to play" rules do not violate free speech rights.
In an opinion affirming a 2009 lower court ruling, the 2nd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said city rules
prohibiting corporate contributions to political campaigns, and
requiring candidates to disclose contributions from people and
groups that do business with the city, were appropriate given
legitimate concerns about corruption.
"Contributions to candidates for city office from persons
with a particularly direct financial interest in these
officials' policy decisions pose a heightened risk of actual
and apparent corruption, and merit heightened government
regulations," the opinion by judges Debra Livingston, Guido
Calabresi and Paul Crotty said.
The lawsuit, brought by Republican politician Tom Ognibene
and others, sought to use the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court
decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to
attack the New York City laws.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court found that the
government cannot ban political spending by corporations in
elections. The 2nd Circuit judges said that ruling only applies
to independent corporate expenditures, and not to contributions
limits such as those enacted in New York.
"There is no doubt that the threat of corruption or its
appearance is heightened when contributors have business
dealings with the city," the court said. "Accordingly, it is
reasonable and appropriate to further limit their
A lawyer for Ognibene did not immediately return a call
In a separate concurring opinion, Judge Calabresi said he
agreed with the majority view, but criticized the Supreme Court
"Citizens United" decision. By preventing governments from
regulating contributions in an effort to protect the free
speech of donors, the decision had the effect of prohibiting
them from "leveling the playing field," Calabresi said.
"In much the same way that anti-noise ordinances help to
prevent megaphone users from downing out all others in the
public square, contribution limits can serve to prevent their
wealthiest donors from rendering all other donors irrelevant
--from, in effect, silencing them."
(Reporting by Basil Katz)
Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal