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New York Democratic chair files an elections complaint against Zeldin

Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York
J.D. Allen
Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York

New York State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs filed an election law complaint on Monday targeting Lee Zeldin’s campaign for governor.

The complaint accuses Zeledin’s campaign of circumventing donation limits by coordinating with two independent expenditure committees, which some are also known as super PACs.

While a candidate’s campaign is limited in how much money it can receive from an individual or corporation in a given year, independent expenditure committees are not restrained by donation caps, and have unlimited spending power — as long as they remain independent and do not contribute directly to a campaign or political party.

State law prohibits coordination between these groups and campaign committees.

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A spokesperson for Zeldin’s campaign told the Albany Times Union neither Zeldin nor his campaign staff has been in strategic talks with the outside groups.

The two super PACs at the center of the controversy are Safe Together New York and Save Our State NY. Ronald Lauder, the Estée Lauder billionaire who has given over $6 million to these groups, is their largest donor.

New York City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli, who is a co-chair of Zeldin’s campaign, was also listed as a spokesman for Save Our State. In addition, John McLaughlin, who is a Zeldin campaign pollster, is also the owner of McLaughlin Media, an organization which was paid by Safe Together New York for advertisements criticizing Governor Kathy Hochul.

Jacobs’s complaint targets whether there were violations of the Board of Elections rules prohibiting individuals involved with independent expenditure committees from participating in “strategic meetings” with campaigns.

Emily is a former news intern at WSHU.