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Gov. must not change elections without input from lawmakers

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Dec. 18

The state Legislature has a little more than a week to decide to hold a special session if it wants to make any changes to the Public Campaign Finance Commission’s recommendations.

Legislative leadership should do so.

Many will always view the Public Campaign Finance Commission’s work as illegitimate because the commission was created as part of a state budget deal to perform work the Legislature should be doing. Because legislators can’t come together on a good system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo circumvented the Legislature and created a hand-picked commission to do his bidding.

In this case, the bidding of the governor and state Democrats is bad for the state.

Housing the public financing program within the state Board of Elections is problematic. In 2013, the governor’s own Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption wrote in its report, “Our investigation reveals that the state Board of Elections lacks the structural independence, the resources, and the will to enforce election and campaign finance laws.” That’s exactly the agency that should be overseeing this cockamamie program.

We note the Fair Elections for New York Campaign’s criticism that contribution limits to campaigns are, in its opinion, still too high while the commission’s recommendations don’t do enough to tighten restrictions on campaign war chests and “doing business” restrictions.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the increase in the number of votes it will take for a minor party to receive statewide ballot access. It made little sense for the commission to even take up the issue of minor parties since it has absolutely nothing to do with campaign finance. It’s clearly a move to protect the big two parties, Democratic and Republican. Suspiciously, the limits were set at exactly a spot where it would exclude left-side parties such as Working Families — which can at times compete with Democrats — but would include the somewhat larger Conservative Party, letting that party continue to split the right.

Democrats and Republicans already hold too much dominance. Libertarians, Greens and other smaller parties bring ideas into the public sphere that might not have been heard otherwise. New York state should do more to create avenues to the ballot, not restrict them.

There is one final criticism of the commission’s work that should doom it to the dustbin of history. Too much of its work was done behind closed doors with no opportunity for public input. It’s fine if state legislators want to use the commission’s recommendations as a starting point for meaningful legislative changes, but in no way should the commission’s work become law as it is. The public deserves to have the shape of its election system molded by the legislative process with legislators held accountable by their constituents for their votes.

Return to Albany, state legislators, and do the work you were elected to do. The clock is ticking.

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