In an opinion today, Judge Crotty, based on the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United and McCutcheon, enjoined New York’s state laws limiting donations to “Super-PACs,” but it was clear he did so reluctantly:
[T]oday’s reality is that the voices of “we the people” are too often drowned out by the few who have great resources. And when the fundraising cycle slows (it never stops), lobbyists take over in a continuing attempt to gain influence over and access to elected officials. This is not a left or right, liberal or conservative analysis, but all the points on the political spectrum are increasingly involved in shaping this country’s political agenda. In today’s neverending cycle of campaigning and lobbying; lobbying and campaigning, elected officials know where their money is coming from and that it must keep coming if they are to stay in office. Ordinary citizens recognize this; they know what is going on; they know they are not being included. It breeds cynicism and distrust. Yet this is not to say that all influence that people seek is corrupt. There is a “difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone.” McCutcheon, 134 S. Ct. at 1481 (Breyer, J., dissenting). Influence resting upon public opinion is a vital aspect of our representative democracy. On the other hand, influence bought by money is no different than a bribe, and as the Book of Exodus 23:8 counsels, “a bribe blinds the clearsighted and is the ruin of the just man’s cause.” But without knowing what is in a politician’s or donor’s mind, it is almost impossible to know where to draw the line. Legislators are well acquainted with these dangers. Based on their experiences, legislators have drawn the line by crafting contribution limitations like those contained in New York Election Laws §§ 14-114(8) and 14-126. . . . . The Court has noted its concern; and many others have expressed similar concerns about the impact of the rulings in Citizens United and McCutcheon. The Court is bound, however, to follow the Supreme Court and Second Circuit’s clear guidance. Accordingly, the Court holds that the limitations contained in New York Election Laws §§ 14-114(8) and 14-126, as applied to independent expenditure-only organizations, cannot prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, and thus violate the First Amendment.