Two New York mega-donors have sued No Labels for an alleged “bait and switch” maneuver, accusing the third-party organization of accumulating donations for bipartisan governing initiatives that are now instead funding a “unity ticket” for a 2024 presidential run.
The plaintiffs, cousins Douglas and Jonathan Durst, filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday, alleging that No Labels “has lost its way, abandoned its original mission, and fundamentally betrayed its donors’ trust in the process.”
Douglas and Jonathan Durst, chairman and president of the Durst Organization, respectively, seek reimbursements and damages after both men donated $145,000 to the organization. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs said that No Labels was touted as a “third bloc” for promoting bipartisan governing but that it is now “pursuing a divisive course.”
“At its inception, No Labels touted itself as ‘not a third party, but rather a third bloc,’ that would promote bi-partisan compromise to achieve consensus,” the lawsuit said. “Today, it has become the opposite: a partisan political organization planning to run a third-party Presidential candidate, thereby skewing the electoral landscape in one party’s favor, and pursuing a divisive course that is the antithesis of its original mission to bridge the political divide.”
The lawsuit is another complaint that has been escalating as the nonprofit group seeks ballot access in all 50 states.
Dan Webb, an attorney volunteering for No Labels and co-executive chairman at Winston & Strawn, dismissed the lawsuit, calling it meritless.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit and has no merit whatsoever. We’re very disappointed to learn that former supporters of No Labels, Douglas and Jody Durst are mischaracterizing our mission and our work,” Webb said in a statement to The Hill.
In the lawsuit, donors slammed the current organization’s initiative, saying they would’ve never donated if they had any knowledge about the current group’s course of action.
“Had No Labels ever given any indication that it might pursue such a gambit, the Dursts never would have funded the organization. That is because, in a Presidential election, anyone who votes for a third-party candidate votes on neither side,” the lawsuit said.
Webb dismissed the claims, saying that the group’s mission has not changed, calling the ballot access initiative a “natural extension” to “give” voice to the U.S. “commonsense majority” and that the Dursts’ donations were utilized according to their wishes.
“This is nothing more than an organized distraction,” Webb said. “Douglas’s last contribution was six years ago, and Jody’s last contribution was over three years ago. These contributions were spent on priorities that the Dursts had no complaints about at the time. No Labels’ fundamental mission has never changed. Our current ballot access effort is a natural extension of our mission to give a voice to America’s commonsense majority and it enjoys overwhelming support from the majority of the country.”
No Labels has indicated for months that is planning to unveil a third-party ticket during the 2024 presidential cycle, consisting of two moderate candidates. It would be propelled if former President Trump and President Biden were the nominees in the parties, something that is currently likely to happen.
The group has floated various candidates to be a part of their ticket. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who announced he will not run for reelection in the upper chamber, has been considered, along with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who stepped down as the group’s co-chair in January.
Democrats have criticized No Labels’s effort, arguing the group’s push would take away votes from Biden in his reelection effort against Trump, the likely GOP nominee current Republican front-runner.