Minor Party Fights New York’s Campaign-Finance Limits

(CN) – The Upstate Jobs Party sued officials with the New York State Board of Elections, claiming campaign-finance limits favor the major political parties and constrain those that do not have party status but are competing for state offices.

On Friday, founder Martin Babinec and chairman John Bullis joined their party in filing a complaint in Utica federal court against members of the New York State Board of Elections, alleging state laws have “tilted the playing field” in favor of the two major political parties while stifling “new organizations with new ideas.”

The Upstate Jobs Party – which says it advocates for well-paying jobs, “transparency in government and an end to corporate welfare” – claims New York’s campaign-finance limits are preventing it from contributing as much money as it would like to its political campaigns, including this year’s race for governor.

“Plaintiffs seek to ensure equal access to the New York State electoral process, by removing restrictions on political donations that disparately impact political organizations that have different political ideas from state-sanctioned political parties like the Democratic and Republican parties,” the 28-page filing states.

Represented by attorney Jason Torchinsky of Holtzman Vogel, the minor party alleges that the state “selectively applied” campaign-finance limits in violation of the First Amendment and the group’s equal-protection rights under the 14th Amendment.

Among other things, the Upstate Jobs Party notes that the Democratic and Republican candidates can raise $4,400 during primaries and another $4,400 for the general election from individual donors. That’s a total of $8,800 per donor.

The Upstate Jobs Party is limited to $4,400 for the entire election cycle, according to the lawsuit, because it doesn’t hold primary elections.

“The UJP’s candidates are at a disadvantage because these candidates cannot raise money for the primary that, if unused, can be used in the general election,” the complaint states.

The minor party claims it is also barred from spending unlimited funds to support its candidates, which recognized parties are allowed to do.

It seeks a ruling that allows the Upstate Jobs Party to make unlimited campaign contributions.

Babinec founded the party in 2016 and ran for representative of New York’s 22nd Congressional District the same year. He came in third with 12.4 percent of the vote, according to Board of Elections data.

The defendants in Friday’s lawsuit are New York State Board of Elections Commissioners Peter Kosinski, Douglas Kellner, Andrew Spano, and Gregory Peterson.

Neither the Upstate Jobs Party nor the Board of Elections immediately responded Monday to requests for comment.

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