Zeldin campaign under scrutiny over potential unlawful coordination with Super PACS

ALBANY — New York Democrats are taking aim at Lee Zeldin following reports that election officials are probing whether the Republican’s gubernatorial campaign unlawfully coordinated with conservative super PACs.

The probe comes after Jay Jacobs, the head of the state Democratic Party, filed a complaint earlier this month arguing that Zeldin’s campaign broke election law by working too closely with the pair of deep-pocketed political action committees.

On Friday, Jacobs ripped the Republican’s campaign for potentially improper coordination with Safe Together New York and Save Our State, independent expenditure groups that have spent million in support of Zeldin’s bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Hochul.

“You couple that with Lee Zeldin’s vote to deny certification for the 2020 election and you see a pattern, if you will, an illegal pattern of disregard for election laws and the fair running of elections,” Jacobs said.

A day earlier, reports surfaced that, Michael Johnson, chief enforcement counsel with the state Board of Elections, began a preliminary investigation into complaints about people who have been working for both the PACs and the Zeldin campaign.

The two groups are largely funded by billionaire Ronald Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune and longtime backer of conservative causes.

The Albany Times Union first reported Sunday on comments made by Zeldin in which he referred to his campaign and the independent expenditure committees as “we” and “our side.”

The report also notes that Republican City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) serves as both a co-chair for Zeldin’s campaign and a spokesman for the Save Our State group. Safe Together also paid money to political consultant John McLaughlin, who has long served as Zeldin’s campaign pollster, to work on ads critical of Hochul.

Hochul campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey slammed Zeldin over the alleged wrongdoing, linking the coordination to the conservative congressman’s support for former president Donald Trump.

“Just like Donald Trump, Lee Zeldin doesn’t think the rules apply to him,” Harvey said in a statement. “Whether it’s overturning the will of voters or his ongoing petition fraud scandal, Lee Zeldin has shown a pattern of contempt for our democracy and is too dangerous for New York.”

Hochul and Zeldin are locked in a tighter-than-anticipated race as Election Day, Nov. 8, approaches and early voting begins on Saturday.