The Board of Elections Comes for the Socialists
A very fishy case in New York
There’s an odd case bubbling up in New York, one that could cripple the largest chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
It all started when DSA formed a campaign committee to aid its many candidates running for state office. The committee, called DSA for the Many, had a special designation, allowing it to raise and spend near-unlimited sums of cash on state legislative races like a normal party account would. Every candidate aided by DSA for the Many had to consent to receiving help. They all did, including incumbent state legislators like Julia Salazar, Jabari Brisport, and Emily Gallagher.
But the chief enforcement counsel for the New York State Board of Elections, Michael L. Johnson, thinks DSA for the Many broke the rules. He’s asking a court to assess a penalty of $300,000. This would not only exceed what DSA for the Many spent in the 2022 election cycle but also be at least seven times their cash reserves. If the BOE has its way, New York’s DSA chapter, which has elected eight of its own to the state legislature, would be bereft of cash and would have to spend the rest of this year and next just fundraising to pay back the fine.
What rule, exactly, did DSA break? According to a report in the New York Times, the multicandidate committee failed to secure written permission—a sworn affidavit or a signed form—from the DSA politicians themselves before coordinating with them. Never mind that every candidate openly consented to coordinating with the committee, and even told the BOE so. Never mind that the other BOE staffers had offered guidance that Johnson was now contradicting.
The enforcement counsel wasn’t budging. For what amounted to a paperwork error, DSA would pay an enormous, unprecedented penalty.
Why? The circumstantial evidence suggests a political hit. The socialists, at the minimum, have a right to be aggrieved.