The longtime head of the state Conservative Party said anger over the state’s Wilson Pakula law is misdirected, saying the focus should remain on punishing those who try to “game the system.”
Party Chairman Michael Long said the law—which allows for parties to offer their ballot line to someone who isn’t a member of their party—has been “very effective for our state.” Repealing it, he said, would do nothing to fight corruption in Albany.
The quirky election law, which was first implemented in 1947, has been front and center since state Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, was arrested and charged with trying to bribe his way onto the Republican ballot line in the New York City mayor’s race. Federal prosecutors say Smith, through an undercover intermediary, offered bribes to influential Republican Party officials in New York City in exchange for their support in allowing him onto their line.
“Talking about Wilson Pakula is sort of a feel good thing that would give you credit like you’re doing something, and you’re really not accomplishing anything by doing that,” Long said in a Monday phone interview. “The Wilson Pakula law didn’t break any laws. It’s the people who try and game the system. Punish those who game the system.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought up the possibility of rescinding the Wilson Pakula law during a radio interview Monday. It would have a major impact on minor parties like the Conservative Party, which often cross endorses candidates on major party lines and has provided key votes in tight races across the state.
If the law is rescinded, Long said the party would still endure.
“It depends how they frame it,” Long said. “If they get rid of the Wilson Pakula, we’ll run our candidates statewide. We’ll run our candidates statewide; We’ll run our candidates on the local level. It depends how they frame the law.”
Long said Cuomo should take a look at implementing term limits for lawmakers and statewide offices as a way to fight corruption. He also wants to see a hard-and-fast law requiring any lawmakers to be stripped of their pension if they commit a felony.
(AP file photo)