Teachout & Wu Sue Cuomo, Hochul & NYSDC, Alleging Election Law Misdeeds

Zephyr Teachout & Tim Wu
New York State Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate Zephyr Teachout and running mate Tim Wu filed a lawsuit Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, alleging Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his running mate Kathy Hochul and the New York State Democratic Committee violated state Election Law. (Photo courtesy of Teachout/Wu for New York State)

New York State Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and running mate for lieutenant governor Tim Wu announced the filing of a lawsuit in state Supreme Court Friday, charging, among other allegations, that the New York State Democratic Committee has been illegally funding the re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate Kathy Hochul.

The lawsuit [READ IT HERE] seeks not only to prohibit additional contributions to Cuomo and Hochul’s campaigns, but an order compelling the two to reimburse the state committee for monies already spent in support of their campaigns prior to the September 9 primary election.

Teachout, a Fordham University law professor, and Wu, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, accuse the NYSDC of violating state Election Law when, “under the direction of, and in coordination with” Cuomo, their petition reads, “it printed and mailed election literature supporting Cuomo and Hochul to hundreds of thousands of Democratic Party members across the state.

“As in-kind contributions to the Cuomo/Hochul campaign ordered by Cuomo himself, these actions are subject to limited First Amendment protections, and the statutes making such expenditures unlawful are justified by the State’s compelling interest in protecting a democratic primary process,” it continues, adding that it’s anticipated in the lead-up to the Sept. 9 primary, “the NYSDC will spend its money to do further advertising for the Cuomo and Hochul campaigns.”

“Based on the facts alleged, facts which cannot credibly be disputed, the coordinated actions of Andrew Cuomo and the NYSDC represent a prima facie violation of Section 2-126 of New York Election Law,” state the court documents.

Teachout and Wu argue the injury caused to their campaigns, as well as fellow Democrats, is “irreparable,” since those mailings helped influence voters and the primary election is just several days away.

Additionally, Team Teachout alleges that by directing the NYSDC to spend “hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions of dollars” on their campaigns and accepting the aforementioned contributions from the NYSDC, Cuomo and Hochul have and continue to violate contribution and receipt limitations on candidates as dictated by state Election Law.

Teachout and Wu have been touring the state in recent weeks blasting what they called Cuomo’s right-leaning policies and his controversial disbandment of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, which a July 23 New York Times expose alleged his administration meddled with the commission’s probes when investigations came too close to Cuomo or his associates.

They’ve been gaining substantial endorsements recently—among these, the Sierra Club, state chapter of the National Organization for Women and The Nation (The New York Times and New York Observer recently endorsed Wu)—and vow that, if elected, they will once and for all rid Albany of the corruption Cuomo had promised to clean up, but didn’t, and “Old Boys’ Club” dominating Albany.

“We need more women in state politics,” Teachout told the Press during a recent campaign stop at the Southampton Farmers’ Market Sunday, August 24. “Luckily we have women who are representing us federally, but not in Albany. And it’s affecting priorities. I believe it’s affecting education policy. And across the board. You know it’s a broken system when there are no women because it’s not that people don’t support female leaders, it’s that it’s a closed club.”

“Cuomo doesn’t have a lot of women in his decision-making circles,” she added.

Cuomo tried twice, unsuccessfully, to knock Teachout off the ballot, claiming residential requirement violations, and has refused repeated requests from the underdog for a public debate, a concept Cuomo recently slammed as “[not] always a service to democracy.”

“I don’t think it has anything to do with democracy,” Cuomo stated, according to the New York Observer. “I’ve been in many debates that I think were a disservice to democracy—so anyone who says debates are always a service to democracy hasn’t watched all the debates that I’ve been in.”

Cuomo’s bizarre description triggered a barrage of criticism, not just from Teachout, Wu and Cuomo’s Republican opponent Rob Astorino, but The New York Times.

“It’s hard to see how he how could make such a ludicrous argument,” the paper wrote in a September 5 editorial, pointing out that Cuomo opened a 2002 Democratic primary debate with the declaration: “This is what a campaign should be all about—a good, honest discussion on the issues.”

Teachout and Wu hope to obtain a restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prohibit the NYSDC from further financially supporting Team Cuomo, permanently enjoin NYSDC from expending monies to support primary candidates, attain an order and judgment compelling Cuomo and Hochul to repay the committee for these expenditures, and award attorneys’ fees and costs.

Cuomo’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.