Archive for the 'Public Financing' Category
In North Carolina, an appellate judge has spoken out in support of the state’s embattled public financing program for judicial candidates, saying it helps preserve a judiciary that is fair and independent.
“I’m not a politician. I’m just a judge who loves my job,” said N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Wanda Bryant (photo), according to a Star News article about the legislature working to terminate the public financing program.
“If I have to campaign, this is a much better way to do it, to have some sort of judiciary not beholden to big money influence. This program ensures there can be confidence that people are running on a level playing field.”
Added Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a Justice at Stake partner organization, “It’s a big loss.” He explained, “The average person doesn’t pay much attention to how judges get on the bench but it has played an important role in helping our judges be independent … and not feel like special interest groups were looking over their shoulder and would clobber them in the next election.” Read more
A legislator who sought to rescue North Carolina’s public financing program for judicial elections with a House amendment, which he subsequently withdrew, has explained what happened behind the scenes.
Last week, there were media reports that Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan (photo) sponsored an amendment that would have funded the program only through attorneys fees, while eliminating another funding stream — from a check-off on state income tax forms (see Gavel Grab). After Jordan was spotted in conversation with Art Pope, the governor’s budget director, outside the House chamber, the legislator withdrew his amendment and the House proceeded to a vote to eliminate funding for the program.
This week, Jordan talked to the Jefferson Post newspaper. He had gone to bat for two clean-election groups, Common Cause and the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, to craft the compromise amendment, Jordan said. “I do see the difference in public campaign finance for judicial races versus special interest and corporate money,” he explained.
Jordan said the groups indicated to him there was tacit approval by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, for the middle-road amendment. Then he ran into stiff resistance on the House floor. He also had the visit with Pope, who Jordan said informed him that not only would McCrory not accept any public campaign financing, but that use of attorneys fees for the purpose would be unconstitutional, a view Pope claimed was backed by case law.
“I felt left out in the wind,” Jordan told the newspaper. He decided not to pursue his amendment. Read more
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.”