March 12, 2020

A Supreme Court Justice in Niagara County has voided New York’s Public Campaign Financing and Election Commission law, adopting legal arguments raised by the Government Justice Center in a brief filed last October.

Ruling in a pair of cases brought by state lawmakers and minor political parties, Justice Ralph Boniello wrote the law creating the commission was “an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.” The line between administrative rule-making and legislative action, Justice Boniello wrote, “has clearly been transgressed.”

GJC Executive Director Cameron Macdonald warned in his brief that the rule of law “can have no future where the supreme law of the state is defied and disregarded.”

The Legislature, Macdonald explained, unconstitutionally gave an unelected commission the ability to write new election laws. “Only the Legislature, however, can pass laws that supersede existing laws. And only final bills may become law.”

Boniello embraced the GJC’s laser-focused argument challenging the constitutionality of the statute, finding that “the Legislature, clearly and unequivocally, empowered the Commission to legislate new law and repeal existing statutes,” and that in so doing, the Legislature had crossed the line.

The ruling, if upheld on appeal, means New York taxpayers will not have to pay for politicians’ campaigns — something that was set to cost taxpayers up to $100 million per year beginning in 2024, with new restrictions on campaign activities poised to take effect after the 2022 election.

The GJC also has an appeal pending in the Appellate Division – Third Department in its challenge against a similar unelected body that gave pay raises to state lawmakers in violation of the state Constitution.

The Government Justice Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit legal center that provides pro bono representation and legal services to protect the rights of New Yorkers in the face of improper action by state or local governments.Taxpayers can request the GJC’s assistance here.