A longstanding prohibition against political party chairman serving on government policy-making commissions—common knowledge among New York party officials—was nullified by a one-sentence, last-minute language insertion deep inside the 2019-20 State Budget that greenlighted New York Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs to serve as de facto chairman of a commission hellbent on kneecapping the rival Working Families Party (WFP), a story in The Albany Times Union has revealed.
Chairman Jacobs, an ardent opponent of fusion voting who has long-served as the Nassau County Democratic Party chairman as well, claims in the Times Union piece that a.) he noticed the language addition in the 2019-20 State Budget (virtually no one did) and b.) he was previously unaware that political party chairmen have been expressly banned from policy making roles for decades (an equally preposterous assertion.)
“It looks pretty obvious to me what’s going on here,” said New York State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar. “Governor Cuomo is furious at the Working Families Party for endorsing Cynthia Nixon instead of him for governor in 2018, so his legislative mechanics cooked up a way to let his handpicked Democratic Chairman put a shiv between the third and fourth ribs of the WFP. Thankfully, though, the plot is unravelling as members of the public and news media are catching onto what they’re up to.”
The last-minute budget language insertion expressly allowed party officials to serve on the New York State Public Financing Commission—by name. That commission was ostensibly created to look at establishing a taxpayer-funded matching fund program for state political candidates, but it quickly added to its purview a proposal to ban fusion voting in New York, a practice Jacobs has long and very publicly opposed. It then coupled the two issues, declaring that commission members would cast a single vote on all of its recommendations. Jacobs was even caught emailing Democratic Party subordinates to demand that they turn out at commission hearings as members of the public to support his positions on both issues. (The Conservative Party maintains that the commission has no authority to change New York State Law; only a duly-elected State Legislature can do that.)
Fusion voting permits candidates to run on more than one ballot line, allowing voters to cast nuanced votes by supporting chosen candidates on ballot lines with which they most ideologically agree. It was enacted in the early 20th Century by good-government organizations to help combat endemic corruption in Tammany Hall Democratic politics, and it has thrice been upheld as Constitutional by State courts.
“New York’s third parties, whether they be progressive or conservative, foster crucially important debate in New York and serve as incubators of ideas,” Chairman Kassar said. “We should be promoting as much free speech and political diversity in New York as possible, not working cynically to repress it. What Governor Cuomo and Chairman Jacobs are saying simply doesn’t pass the laugh test. They need to come clean about what they’re up to.”
The Conservative Party, Working Families Party, and Republican Party have each filed suit against the commission’s attempt to eliminate fusion voting in New York.