Republican megadonors aim to raise up to $3 million for New York redistricting legal fight

Key Points
  • Republican megadonors aim to raise money to fund a legal challenge to New York's new congressional map, which is favorable to Democrats.
  • The lead attorney for the lawsuit is set to take part in a virtual meeting for donors interested in "learning more about this effort and want to help defeat the Democrats' unconstitutional efforts to gerrymander New York Congressional Districts," according to an invitation reviewed by CNBC.
  • The fundraising effort is ongoing following New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's signing off on new congressional maps that will likely give Democrats a massive advantage in future elections.
New Yorkers are casting their votes for the November 2nd General Election and Mayoral Election in New York City, on November 02, 2021.
Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Republican megadonors aim to raise up to $3 million to fund a legal challenge to New York's new congressional map after the state's recent redistricting.

A two page memo, first reviewed by CNBC and sent to financiers by former New York State Republican Chair Ed Cox and former Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y., is encouraging wealthy donors to help raise the gargantuan sum for the lawsuit. It was filed in state Supreme Court in Steuben County nearly two weeks ago.

The lead attorney for the lawsuit, Misha Tseytlin, is set to take part in a virtual meeting on Friday for donors interested in "learning more about this effort and want to help defeat the Democrats unconstitutional efforts to gerrymander New York Congressional Districts," according to an invite reviewed by CNBC.

The effort comes after the state legislature approved new district lines that could give Democrats a boost in the fight for congressional control for the next decade.

The memo itself encourages financiers to give to either of two separate redistricting-focused groups, the National Republican Redistricting Trust and the Fair Lines America Foundation, which could also assist in the legal challenge.

Both are dark money organizations that do not publicly disclose their donors. The Fair Lines America Foundation has previously been funded by the influential Bradley Foundation and the Donors Trust. The fundraising memo explains that, if donors are interested in giving to these groups, their contributions will remain anonymous.

Litigation challenging the new map in state and federal courts could cost "one and a half to three million dollars," the fundraising pitch says.

Cox said opponents of the district lines are raising what he calls "private funds" to finance the legal fight.

"The Democrats in Albany have used taxpayer dollars to violate New York's Constitution with an extreme partisan gerrymander to cement their power for the next decade. We are raising private funds to support the state Constitution and thwart the Democrats power play," Cox said in an emailed statement to CNBC on Wednesday.

Faso and Tseytlin did not respond to requests for comment.

The fundraising effort has kicked into gear after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed off on a new congressional map that will likely give Democrats a massive advantage in future elections. The state legislature previously approved the redrawn map, which would give Democrats an edge in 22 of 26 districts in the upcoming elections, according to the Associated Press.

Republicans now hold eight of New York's 27 seats.

The Republican-led lawsuit says "this Court should invalidate the unconstitutional congressional map" and repeatedly suggests it is a form of gerrymandering. The practice involves drawing district boundaries for one party's benefit, and has been a common grievance as Democratic and GOP-led states redraw their maps after the 2020 Census.

The two page memo illustrates the extensive Republican financial effort behind the legal maneuvering, which could have huge stakes for both parties' political fortunes.

Before pitching how to finance such a legal fight, the document describes how the new district lines could affect the GOP.

"The maps produced by the Democrat led New York State legislature will likely cut New York's GOP Congressional delegation from eight to four. If successful, New York Democrats will have produced a significant gain in Speaker Pelosi's goal to maintain her majority in the U.S. House," the document says.

While it's unclear who plans to contribute to this effort, both Cox and Faso and the groups mentioned in the fundraising proposal have ties to wealthy financiers.

Cox helped former President Donald Trump raise money for his 2020 run for the White House. Though Trump ended up losing the election and the state of New York to President Joe Biden, the former candidate raised over $20 million from donors in the Empire State, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Trump's campaign raised over $700 million during the 2020 election cycle.

Faso, who ran for reelection in 2018 but lost to Democrat Antonio Delgado, raised over $3 million for his congressional campaign. Between his campaign committee and leadership political action committee, Faso saw a plethora of contributions from business leaders and corporate PACs.

Records show that Faso's previous top donors include Dan Loeb, the CEO of investment firm Third Point, businessperson Ronald Lauder and members of the wealthy Tisch family. Corporate PACs that backed Faso include those of MetLife, AT&T and Citigroup, according to CRP data.

The National Republican Redistricting Trust is an outside entity that does not publicly disclose its donors. It promotes itself as a group that "focuses on the unique legal and data demands of redistricting and coordinates a nationwide redistricting strategy with the Republican Party's national and state committees and conservative organizations around the country."

It was created as a counter to a similar organization helmed by allies of former President Barack Obama, such as former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The NRRT announced last year that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both Republicans, will be its co-chairs. Longtime Republican political strategist Karl Rove is a senior advisor.

Adam Kincaid, the president and executive director of the NRRT, pointed to Pompeo's and Christie's ability to fundraise as a boost for the organization.

"Secretary Pompeo and Governor Christie will be tremendous assets as we raise the resources needed to fight back against the left's attempts to sue to blue," he said at the time, referring to fighting Democratic efforts to gain an advantage in the legislative map.

The Fair Lines America Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which also does not publicly disclose who its donors are.

"Fair Lines America Foundation educates the public on fair and legal redistricting through comprehensive data gathering, processing, and deployment; dissemination of relevant news and information; and strategic investments in academic research and litigation," the group's website says.

While the group does not release its donors, conservative nonprofits have regularly funded it, according to 990 disclosure reports. The Bradley Foundation, which is based in Milwaukee and is known to fund a wave of conservative causes, contributed $100,000 to Fair Lines America Foundation in 2019, according to its disclosure report.

The donation is labeled on the filing as funding "to support start up activity." The redistricting group raised over $1 million that year, according to its latest public disclosure report.

The Donors Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization that conservative megadonors regularly use to finance their intended groups, donated just over $1.4 million to the Fair Lines America Foundation in 2020, according to their group's 990 form. The foundation's 990 record for 2020 has not been made public.

The New York primaries are scheduled for late June.