Sin of commission: What the state’s new campaign finance panel has gotten wrong already
Typically for Albany, legislators who lack the courage to make reforms themselves jammed into the state budget the creation of an unelected panel to recommend whether to set up a statewide public financing system. And typically for Albany, that panel has now gummed up decisions that should be made on the merits.
The nine-member commission staffed by appointees of Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders is up and running. High on its likely list of proposals is eliminating fusion voting.
That’s the perfectly fine system that allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines in a single election by getting cross-endorsed; the Working Families, Green, Conservative, Independence and other minor parties rely on it for their survival. (The Independence Party is a sham whose ranks are inflated by voters confused about what the name means; the rest stand for something, and quite democratically use their leverage to influence the stances of the major parties.)
Cuomo and others would be more than happy to live without the WFP, a thorn in their left sides. So, before hearing a single word of testimony, panel chair Jay Jacobs — who, wouldn’t you know, also happens to be state Democratic Party chairman — announced that the commission plans to package all the panel’s proposals on public financing and fusion voting together for a single-or-up down vote by the Legislature (and automatic adoption if the Legislature never votes).
This is a raw deal. Let those who want to kill fusion voting choose to do that. Let those who want to create a public financing system or otherwise overhaul some pretty terrible campaign finance laws choose to do that.
Don’t dare tell New York State that if it wants to weaken the power of big money in political campaigns, it has to simultaneously destroy minor parties.