Archive for the 'Public Financing' Category
With North Carolina’s public financing program for judicial elections facing its death in the legislature, a (Raleigh) News & Observer editorial defended the program. It also condemned the increasingly powerful role in the state of budget director Art Pope, who reportedly influenced a House vote to kill the program.
To learn about the role played by Pope, see Gavel Grab. The News & Observer editorial was headlined, “Democracy undone by ending funding for NC court races,” and it commended the public financing program:
“Taking public funding away from judicial races is particularly grievous. The public knows it’s unhealthy to have judges elected primarily through contributions from those who have business before them. That’s why the public overwhelmingly favors the state program that provides public funding for candidates running for the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Last month, a poll by SurveyUSA found 68 percent of the state’s voters favor the program. Fourteen of the 15 Court of Appeals judges signed a letter supporting it.” Read more
North Carolina legislators have cast another key vote to kill the state’s successful public financing program for appellate judicial candidates, and “the real losers will be North Carolina residents” if the program dies, Justice at Stake warned on Friday.
The House voted in favor of a budget plan this week that effectively kills the public financing program, and the Senate approved earlier a budget version with a similar effect. In a statement, Liz Seaton, Justice at Stake’s acting executive director, said:
“This action by the House sets the stage for North Carolinians to lose their judicial public financing program, a popular program that is used by candidates for the appellate court bench from both political parties and that enjoys broad bipartisan support. Even worse, there are reports that this House action appears to be the result of personal lobbying of legislators by the state budget director, Art Pope, who is a major campaign contributor to these lawmakers. If correct, that means campaign donor political influence is being used to kill a judicial public financing program designed to prevent campaign donor pressure on judges. Read more
A legislator sponsored this week an amendment to save North Carolina’s embattled public financing program for judicial elections, then withdrew it after a conversation with state budget director Art Pope. The House then “voted to kill” the program, a (Raleigh) News & Observer political blog reported.
Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan’s amendment would have funded the program only through attorneys fees, eliminating another funding stream, from a check-off on state income tax forms.
Gov. Pat McCrory had pursued elimination of the popular public financing program in his own budget plan, and Art Pope, his budget director, “was seen lobbying state Rep. Jonathan Jordan outside the House chambers Tuesday afternoon,” the blog reported. Shortly afterward, Jordan withdrew his proposal. The House voted for a budget plan that would have the effect of terminating the program.
In the blog, reporter Rob Christensen relied on an account by Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, who had observed the conversation. The headline for the blog post asked, “Did Art Pope kill judicial public financing?” The post said Pope has long opposed the public financing program, and he and his family have donated campaign money in support of Jordan, as have three groups associated with Pope. Read more
Debate concerning North Carolina’s embattled public finance program for judicial elections has fueled an opinion battle between local leaders with opposing viewpoints.
Gov. Pat McCrory and both chambers of the General Assembly have proposed budget legislation that includes eliminating public financing, says an Asheville Citizen-Times editorial. Even though the system is supported by a majority of voters, both Democrats and Republicans, the program seems “doomed,” it notes.
In a Daily Reflector op-ed, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education Brent Laurenz declares that the system frees judicial candidates from having to seek money from attorneys or special interest groups. The N.C. Center for Voter Education is a Justice at Stake partner organization. Read more
North Carolina’s public finance program for judicial elections is nationally recognized, and it has support from former state governors, state appeals court judges, business leaders and a majority of voters on both sides of the political aisle.
Considering the strong backing of the program, asks a Rocky Mount Telegram editorial, why then is the North Carolina General Assembly persistently seeking to end it?
Critics of public financing argue that it wastes taxpayer money, but the funds come from an optional fee on a tax form, the opinion says. Without public funding for judicial races, candidates are left to seek campaign money from individuals who may appear before them in court.
Legislators should leave a successful program alone in order to maintain the independence of the judiciary, the editorial argues.
According to Gavel to Gavel, the North Carolina House released a budget proposal last night with language for repealing public financing. The state Senate also proposed eliminating the program earlier this year (see Gavel Grab).
Calls to uphold North Carolina’s public financing program for judicial elections are growing louder, and every member of the state Court of Appeals but one has come out in support of it, according to a Fayetteville Observer editorial.
Last week, the appellate judges sent a letter to Senate leader Phil Berger, urging the Legislature to maintain the current funding system for appellate judicial races (see Gavel Grab). Critics of the program are targeting it for elimination.
In a letter to North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger, 14 of the state’s 15 Court of Appeals judges urged the Legislature to maintain the current public finance system for appellate judicial elections.
The News & Observer reports only Court of Appeals Judge Sanford Steelman declined to sign the letter.
Earlier this year, senators approved a budget that would eliminate North Carolina’s public finance program for judicial races (see Gavel Grab).
In their letter, the judges argued that the program insulates judicial candidates from political influence, and maintains the judiciary’s independence.
New North Carolina polling data, collected by a GOP-leaning company and conducted for Justice at Stake and other groups, shows strong popular support for the state’s public financing program for appellate court candidates. The program is targeted by critics for elimination.
A survey conducted by The Tarrance Group found 68 percent of voters said they would be less inclined to back a legislator who, according to the polling company, “supported an electorate system where money would have a greater role in judicial elections,” the (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.
Also commissioning the poll were the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and the Piper Fund.
A Salisbury (N.C.) Post editorial argued for preserving the public financing program, and it cited the following data from the poll:
“A poll … found that 67 percent of Republican women appreciate that the judicial financing program has helped more females get elected to the state’s top courts. A majority of GOP women voters — 57 percent — also say they’re less likely to vote for lawmakers who would end the public financing option — as looks increasingly likely — and open up the campaign fund spigot in judicial elections.”
The West Virginia State Election Commission is concerned about funding of the state’s public finance program for Supreme Court candidates after learning that the program will have just $1.5 million by 2016, according to the Associated Press.
The commission proposed changes to the program’s rules since legislation was passed earlier this year making the program permanent for West Virginia Supreme Court candidates who choose to participate (see Gavel Grab).
According to another Associated Press article, lawmakers increased the amount of money available to candidates through the program this year. Individuals running in a primary election are eligible to receive $300,000, while those in a contested general election can receive $525,000.
Public finance provides an alternative to “traditional fundraising” for candidates. In 2012, Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was the only candidate to apply and qualify for the funding, the article says.
North Carolina courts are at risk of becoming a battleground for high stakes judicial races if the state legislature does away with its public financing program for judicial candidates, argues Doug Clark in a (Greensboro) News & Record blog.
Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice John F. McCuskey and state legislator John B. McCuskey traveled to North Carolina last week to urge state lawmakers to uphold the program (see Gavel Grab).
“As a protector of the state’s tax dollars, I believe this is a good expenditure of the people’s money, to ensure that they believe that the judges have been elected to fairly adjudicate every matter, be it criminal or civil, are doing so in an impartial manner,” said Del. McCuskey. Read more