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Langworthy: Elections commission move doesn't 'pass the smell test'

State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy is critical of

State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy is critical of the governor naming his Democratic counterpart, Jay Jacobs, to the Public Campaign Financing Commission. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — The Republican state chairman said Monday the appointment of his Democrat counterpart to an election commission that could determine the future of campaign financing and fusion voting doesn't “pass the smell test.”

Democrats contended the appointment of Jay Jacobs by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was about adding expertise and experience to the elections panel.

At issue is a commission created by lawmakers that will convene later this year to consider election law changes. Though called the Public Campaign Financing Commission, the panel will have the ability to look not only at the use of taxpayer money to fund campaigns but also into contribution limits, participation qualifications and other issues. Some also hope — or fear — it will examine “fusion voting,” a process by which minor parties can nominate major party candidates on their ballot lines.

The commission is  scheduled to issue findings by Dec. 1, which could become binding unless the state Legislature acts on them within 20 days.

Republican chairman Nick Langworthy blasted Cuomo for selecting Jacobs — the state and Nassau County Democratic chairman — for the panel. He said the appointment of Cuomo’s “hand-picked party boss” to the panel was inappropriate.

“No disrespect to Jay Jacobs, but this is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” Langworthy told reporters at the State Capitol. “You have a party leader heading a governmental entity. Only in Andrew Cuomo’s world would this pass the smell test.”

Langworthy, elected GOP leader just last week, said he’d have turned down an appointment, if asked. He also said it was wrong for the governor and state legislators to hand power over to the commission, instead of deciding themselves whether to enact public financing of campaigns.

Jacobs countered: “I bring a good amount of experience to the commission.”

He noted he has been involved with and has run campaigns for years — he’s been Nassau Democratic chairman since 2001 — as well as having familiarity with election law.

Jacobs said handing power to the panel could be viewed as a better option than letting elected officials write the rules.

“It separates the decision-makers from the decision,” Jacobs said.

 Cuomo had the power to nominate just two of the nine panel appointees. But with Democrats controlling the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, the party had the authority to name seven members.

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