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Niagara Falls judge strikes down NYS' new public finance law

A Supreme Court justice struck down New York’s new public campaign financing law, after challenges were brought by two minor parties who said the rules unfairly discriminated against them.

The commission, which was dominated by appointees of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and criticized for its secrecy, last November implemented a plan that would enact a public matching donor program. But it also placed strict new limits on the abilities of minor parties to qualify to be on the ballot.

Instead of the threshold of 50,000 votes for the governor's race every four years, parties other than the Democratic and Republican parties would have to requalify every two years. They would also have to receive a larger number of votes- either 2% of the total vote count or 130,000 votes in a presidential year or 140,000 in a gubernatorial year, whichever is lower.

The rules took effect late last year and would have impacted campaigns beginning in 2024 for the legislature and 2026 for statewide races.

Two minor political parties, the left-leaning Working Families Party and the state’s Conservative Party, filed separate lawsuits, saying the new rules were unfair and that the legislature did not have the right to give over its law making powers to a commission.

Justice Ralph Boniello of Niagara Falls sided with the minor parties, saying the “the Statute is an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the Public Campaign Financing and Election Commission.”

In a statement, the leader of the state’s Conservative Party, Jerry Kassar, said the ruling proves that the commissions’ decisions were “total overreach by an overzealous governor” and called it a “victory for political freedom.”

In a statement, the Working Families Party also applauded the decision, saying “an unelected commission has no right to interfere” with New Yorkers’ constitutional rights.

Advocates for public financing, including Citizen Action of New York and NYU’s Brennan Center, asked the governor and legislature to act on a new small donor matching plan for elections immediately.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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