Supreme Court Opens the Door for New York Campaign Cash

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Political party leaders are already dialing for dollars thanks to Wednesday's Supreme Court decision striking down some limits on campaign contributions.

Billionaire John Catsimatidis, who ran for mayor as a Republican last year, said party leaders are already organizing calls to wealthy donors like him to inform them of the new rules.

Catsimatidis gave the full $117,000 in federal campaign contributions he was allowed to by law during the 2012 election cycle, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Supreme Court’s decision means donors – while still limited in how much they give to individual candidates and committees – can give to an unlimited number of those candidates and committees. That could mean a few million dollars worth of extra political contributions from a wealthy donor like Catsimatidis.

“My first reaction was 'Ugh! It's going to cost me a lot more money every year,'” he said, laughing.

Nationwide, 644 people gave the maximum amount in the 2012 election cycle, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. New York state had the most, with 101 donors hitting the limit.

“Those high-rollers, those mega-donors, will literally be able to write a check with six zero’s after a number and have that money delivered to hundreds of campaigns and political action committees,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director, who added that the change will give even more influence to the rich.

Cynthia Darrison, a long-time Democratic fundraiser who now teaches a course on campaign finance at New York University, said the changes will make it a lot easier for professionals to solicit donors. And active donors won’t need to be as strategic when it comes to spreading around their money, she added.

“This is Christmas for political fundraisers and the Supreme Court is Santa Claus,” Darrison said.

Wilbur Ross, a wealthy investor who gave the limit in the 2012 election cycle, agreed with the court’s decision.

“Freedom of speech should enable individuals to support as many candidates for Congress as they wish," Ross wrote in an email to WNYC.

"Each senator has the same voting power as every other one and the same is true in the House so every Congressman is as important to every citizen's well being as every other one regardless of their state,” Ross said. “I also doubt that this will create a game changing flow of money because there aren't that many people who want to write big checks anyway so I think this is not going to be the critical factor in the Fall elections. Candidate selection, ideology and turnout will continue to be the key determinants.”