Upstate Jobs Party v. Kosinski

Decision Date08 September 2021
Docket Number18-CV-0459 (GTS/ATB)
Citation559 F.Supp.3d 93
Parties UPSTATE JOBS PARTY; Martin Babinec; and John Bullis, Plaintiffs, v. Peter S. KOSINSKI, New York State Bd. of Elections Co-Chair Comm'r, in his official capacity; Douglas A. Kellner, New York State Bd. of Elections Co-Chair Comm'r, in his official capacity; Andrew J. Spano, New York State Bd. of Elections Comm'r, in his official capacity; and Gregory P. Peterson, New York State Board of Elections Comm'r, in his official capacity, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York

OF COUNSEL: FERNANDO SANTIAGO, ESQ., MICHAEL A. BURGER, ESQ., SANTIAGO BURGER, LLP, Counsel for Plaintiffs, 2280 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14610.

OF COUNSEL: JASON B. TORCHINSKY, ESQ., SHAWN T. SHEEHY, ESQ., PHILLIP M. GORDON, ESQ., HOLTZMAN VOGEL JOSEFIAK TORCHINSKY, PLLC, Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs, 15405 John Marshall Highway, Haymarket, VA 20169.

HON. LETITIA A. JAMES, OF COUNSEL: WILLIAM A. SCOTT, ESQ., Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General for the State of New York, Counsel for Defendants, The Capitol, Albany, NY 14202.

GLENN T. SUDDABY, Chief United States District Judge

Table of Contents
III. ANALYSIS...124
B. Whether Plaintiffs or Defendants Are Entitled to Summary Judgment on PlaintiffsClaims...127
1. Substantive Legal Standard...127
a. Plaintiffs’ Claims Under the First Amendment...127
b. Plaintiff's Claims Under the Fourteenth Amendment...128
2. Whether Plaintiffs or Defendants Are Entitled to Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs’ Contribution-Limit Claims...130
a. Whether Defendants Have Established a Sufficiently Important Interest for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Contribution-Limit Claims...130
b. Whether Defendants Have Established a Compelling State Interest for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Contribution-Limit Claims...132
c. Whether the Laws Regarding Contribution-Limits Are Closely Drawn for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Claims Under the First Amendment...132
i. Laws Regarding Contribution Limits in General Elections...133
ii. Laws Regarding Contribution Limits in Primary Elections...136
d. Whether the Laws Regarding Contribution-Limits Are the Least-Restrictive Means for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Claims Under the Fourteenth Amendment...137
3. Whether Plaintiffs or Defendants Are Entitled to Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs’ Housekeeping-Account Claims...138
a. Whether the Laws Regarding Housekeeping Accounts Are Closely Drawn for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Claims Under the First Amendment...138
b. Whether the Laws Regarding Housekeeping Accounts Are the Least-Restrictive Means for Purposes of Plaintiffs’ Claims Under the Fourteenth Amendment...140
AMENDED DECISION and ORDER 1

Currently before the Court, in this civil rights action filed by the Upstate Jobs Party, Martin Babinec, and John Bullis ("Plaintiffs") against the four commissioners of the New York State Board of Elections ("Defendants"), is Plaintiffsmotion for summary judgment, Defendantscross-motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiffs’ two motions to strike the declaration, report and testimony of two of Defendants’ experts. (Dkt. No. 56, 57, 60, 61.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffsmotion to strike Brian Quail's declaration and testimony is denied in part and granted in part, Plaintiffsmotion to strike Clyde Wilcox's expert report and testimony is denied, Plaintiffsmotion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part, and Defendantscross-motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Plaintiffs’ Claims

Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that New York State's Election Law improperly distinguishes between statutorily recognized political "parties" (hereafter "Parties") and "constituted committees" (hereafter "Constituted Committees") on the one hand and statutorily recognized "independent bodies" (hereafter "Independent Bodies") such as the United Jobs Party ("UJP") on the other hand with regard to contribution limits and segregated accounts, thereby creating a "tilted playing field" against Independent Bodies. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, based on these allegations, the Complaint asserts six causes of action: (1) a request for a judgment declaring that New York State's so-called "housekeeping account exemption," codified in N.Y. Elec. Law § 14-124(3), violates both the Free Speech and Association Clauses of the First Amendment; (2) a request for a judgment declaring that the same "housekeeping account exemption" violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a request for a judgment declaring that New York State's differing limits for contributions by political organizations to candidates, codified in N.Y. Elec. Law § 14-114(1),(3) violates both the Free Speech and Association Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by prohibiting Plaintiff UJP from contributing more than $44,0002 to its gubernatorial candidate, in contrast to the Parties and Constituted Committees which can make unlimited contributions to their candidates, without having a compelling interest for doing so or using a narrowly tailored means to accomplish such an interest; (4) a request for a judgment declaring that the same statute violates Plaintiff Babinec's right to make political contributions to Plaintiff UJP under the First Amendment, by limiting his contribution to $44,000, which is substantially less than he could contribute to any of the Parties or Constituted Committees; (5) a request for a judgment declaring that New York State's differing limits for contributions by individual contributors to political organizations, codified in N.Y. Elec. Law § 14-114(1),(10), violates both the Free Speech and Association Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by prohibiting Plaintiff UJP from raising more than $44,000 per contributor for its gubernatorial candidate while permitting Parties and Constituted Committees to raise up to $109,600 per contributor for their gubernatorial candidates, without having an anti-corruption interest to justify the disparity; and (6) a request for a judgment declaring that New York State's statute limiting contributions to candidates, codified in N.Y. Elec. Law § 14-114 and 9 N.Y.C.R.R. § 6214.0, violates both the Free Speech and Association Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by permitting Party and Constituted Committee candidates for governor to raise money in a primary election while prohibiting Plaintiff UJP's candidate for governor from doing so. (See generally Dkt. No. 1 [Plfs.’ Compl.].) Familiarity with the factual allegations supporting these claims in Plaintiffs’ Complaint is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. (Id. )

B. Undisputed Material Facts

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts were asserted and supported with accurate citations by the parties in their Statements of Material Facts and expressly admitted, or denied without appropriate record citations, in their responses thereto. (Compare Dkt. No. 56, Attach. 2 [Plfs.’ Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 57, Attach 7, at 1-28 [Defs.’ Rule 7.1 Resp.]; compare Dkt. No. 57, Attach. 7, at 28-32 [Defs.’ Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 58, at 58-88 [Plfs.’ Rule 7.1 Resp.])3

1. Plaintiffs’ Statement of Material Facts
1. In early 2016, Mr. Martin Babinec decided he wanted to run for the U.S. House of Representatives to replace Republican Congressman Richard Hanna. (Dkt. No. 56, Attach. 2 at ¶ 1.) Mr. Babinec decided to campaign for Congress under the banner of a new Independent Body, the UJP. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The UJP is considered an Independent Body under New York State law. (Id. at ¶ 3.)
2. With the help of approximately 60 volunteers, Mr. Babinec obtained the 3,500 signatures on independent nominating petitions that were required under New York law. (Id. at ¶ 4.) To assist his campaign efforts, Mr. Babinec used his personal money to loan his campaign $2,990,000. (Id. at ¶ 5.)
3. Eventually, Mr. Babinec's UJP line was consolidated with the Libertarian line; instead of appearing on his own line, he appeared on the Libertarian line with a small notation in 3.5-point font stating that he was the UJP nominee. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Mr. Babinec lost the election, receiving 34,638 votes, or 12.4% of the total votes cast. (Id. )
4. Desiring to seize on the momentum gained from the 2016 election, the UJP sought to build its visibility in 2017. (Id. at ¶ 7.) In incurring expenses to increase its visibility, the UJP spent between approximately $50,000 and $100,000. (Id. at ¶ 8.) These expenses including the cost of building and maintaining a digital messaging presence, boosting social media, and hosting a few public meetings where speakers from the UJP spread its message. (Id. at ¶ 9.)
5. On or about October 26, 2017, the UJP formed the Upstate Jobs Committee, an independent expenditure-only committee. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 21.) The Upstate Jobs Committee is distinct from the UJP, a Section 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code. (Id. at ¶ 22.)4 The
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