As the chairman of the New York State Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs' paramount mission is to get as many candidates from his party elected as possible. That's what political bosses do, first and foremost.
And that mission is what's so troubling about a new role Jacobs has been given in New York state government.
Earlier this month, on the afternoon prior to the Fourth of July when as few New Yorkers as possible where paying attention, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his selection of Jacobs for the new public campaign finance task force.
Unlike some task forces in state government that are created to issue a study that gets put on shelves to collect dust, this particular panel has an enormously important job. These appointees will put together proposed rules for a new public campaign finance system that will become law unless the Legislature calls a special session to reject them before the calendar year ends.
These rules have the potential to make a positive impact on the need for reform in Albany, because they could help level the monetary playing field in running for state offices. Incumbents and party favorites have long enjoyed a huge money-raising advantage, which contributes to minimal elected office turnover, which leads to a lack of progress in addressing state government dysfunction.
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But with the New York Democratic chairman on the public campaign finance board, it's hard to imagine a set of rules being crafted that won't help incumbents. And in New York state, where Democrats now control both house of the Legislature and every statewide office, incumbent protection means Democratic party protection.
Cuomo has dismissed the criticism of Jacobs as his pick, pointing to the political connections of other panelists selected by the Republican minority conference leaders. Their picks included a former Senate GOP chief counsel and an ex-chief of state to the Assembly Republican leader.
We'd have preferred all choices be politically neutral, but at least the GOP put in task force appointees whose primary jobs don't start and end with getting party members elected.
Ultimately, the proof that will confirm or dispel this concern about Jacobs will come when the task force puts out its report, which is due in December. We urge New Yorkers to pay close attention, and be ready to blanket their legislators with demands that a rules package with clear political protections for incumbents gets rejected in a special session.