Archive for the 'Public Financing' Category
In order to protect North Carolina’s courts from the “corrosive influence” of special interest money in judicial races, the state needs to support public financing for appellate court candidates.
This argument is put forth by former Republican Gov. Jim Holshouser and former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt in a letter to the editor of The (Davidson County) Dispatch.
The former governors say that judicial elections may require lead candidates to raise large sums of campaign money from people who may end up before them in court. North Carolina began a public campaign financing program in 2004 to prevent corruption, they write. Read more
West Virginia’s state Senate voted to make permanent the public financing of state Supreme Court candidates, following earlier action in the House (see Gavel Grab), and Justice at Stake applauded the legislature’s action.
The Senate voted 30-4 to send the legislation to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature, the Associated Press reported.
Justice at Stake said a pilot public financing program for Supreme Court candidates has succeeded in West Virginia.
“In just a few short years, West Virginia’s public financing program has already helped insulate courts from special interest influence and promote fair and impartial justice,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement.
“Public financing helps shield courts from special-interest influence. Candidates accept public financing by agreeing not to seek money from deep-pocketed interests. We applaud the legislature for taking the necessary steps to make this program permanent and hope Governor Tomblin will sign the bill into law.”
JAS backed the work of West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, a statewide coalition, to win passage of the public financing pilot program in 2010 and to advocate on behalf of making the program permanent. Read more
A state Senate committee pared back a House-passed bill to make permanent a public financing program for West Virginia Supreme Court candidates. The revised version would extend the program through 2016, when the next Supreme Court elections are held.
The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the legislation after concerns were expressed about adequate funding for the program, the Associated Press reported.
To learn more about the legislation, see Gavel Grab. The pilot public financing program for judicial elections was adopted after West Virginia became a poster child for campaign finance reform advocates, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Caperton v. Massey.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled then that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice could not participate in a case involving a coal company whose CEO had spent $3 million to help elect him. The high court said the “probability of bias” violated an opposing litigant’s right to a fair, impartial hearing.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation intended to update a voluntary system of public financing for elections of appellate court judges.
Martinez said the measure’s constitutionality was uncertain, according to an Associated Press article, and urged an overhaul for New Mexico’s hybrid system in which judges seek election in a partisan contest after they have been appointed to the bench.
“We need a broad, ground-up reform of the entire judicial election system,” she wrote in a veto message. “We have the unusual procedure of using a bi-partisan judicial nominating commission process with an immediate open partisan election system. I encourage the Legislature to consider broadly reforming our election system when it comes to judges and am willing to address the issue of public-financing reforms in that overall context.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget provision to eliminate public financing for judicial campaigns is getting national attention. At Huffington Post, Paul Blumenthal examines attacks on public financing and who’s behind them.
“The inclusion of this provision is raising quite a few eyebrows across the state, as the governor’s budget director is retail magnate Art Pope — who also happens to be the largest political donor in North Carolina,” Blumenthal reports.
Last year, Pope and assorted groups that he supports with donations poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into independent expenditures supporting incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby in his successful re-election bid.
“Polls show that the public supports this program, and every candidate in judicial races in the last election entered into the system,” said Melissa Price Kromm of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections. “Why should the program be cut?” Read more
A bill to establish permanent public financing of West Virginia Supreme Court elections won passage in the House of Delegates by a 70-29 vote, and it was sent to the state Senate.
Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was the only candidate last year to take advantage of a pilot public financing program, an Associated Press article noted, and he won election.
Del. Tim Manchin, a Democrat, mentioned Justice Loughry’s victory despite Democratic candidates outspending him, and added about public financing, “It is a good way to get special interest money out of elections and to maintain and improve the integrity of our court.”
Judging the pilot a failure, however, was Republican House Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, who said the GOP nominee won “not necessarily because of this but in spite of this program.”
A pioneering public financing program for judicial campaigns “has been a big success” and has helped keep special interest influence out of the courtroom, the Brennan Center for Justice says in opposing legislation to eliminate it.
Alicia Bannon, who is counsel at the Brennan Center, wrote the commentary published in the Charlotte (NC) Observer. She cited both the dramatic decline in campaign cash for judicial campaigns from attorneys and special interest groups, as well as public approval of the program.
Ninety-four percent of North Carolina voters said they believe campaign cash has some influence over a judge’s ruling, and 79 percent considered it a very serious problem if judges get donations from parties who appear before them, according to a 2011 poll by Justice at Stake and the North Carolina Center for Voter Education.
Responding to budget concerns raised by critics of the program, Bannon said it comprises a “miniscule” portion of the state budget and “is a vital tool for protecting Read more
North Carolina became the first state, in 2002, to provide full public financing for judicial campaigns. Now Gov. Pat McCrory has submitted a budget plan that would zero out funding for that pioneering effort.
According to a WRAL.com report, McCrory’s budget would “end publicly funded campaign finance programs for appellate court and state Supreme Court races. McCrory anticipates eliminating those programs entirely, returning any leftover money to other government uses. That would save the state $4.1 million in the next fiscal year.”
An Asheville Citizen-Times commentary earlier this month (see Gavel Grab) provided a counterpoint to this approach, saying all eight appellate court candidates participated in the program in the 2012 court election cycle, and the program has enjoyed bipartisan backing and broad participation.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will be asked to sign legislation passed unanimously by the state House of Representatives to update a voluntary system of public financing for elections of appellate court judges.
The measure received state Senate approval earlier. The legislation was drafted in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, from 2011. The high court struck down a provision in Arizona’s law that furnished extra taxpayer dollars to participating candidates when privately funded foes or independent groups spent more. It was called a “trigger funds” provision.
In New Mexico, the legislation would set up a small donor matching system. Under it, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, candidates who participate would get an initial public financing grant and after that receive a 4-1 match for donations of up to $100. Read more
A bill was introduced in West Virginia’s House to make permanent a pilot program for the public financing of state Supreme Court elections.
Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was the only candidate last year to take advantage of the program. His path to the high court was cited recently by State Election Commission members in recommending the program be made permanent (see Gavel Grab).
A West Virginia Record article reported on the introduction of the bill and its contents. The public financing program was established to help reduce the influence of special interest spending on the courts.