Keeping you Updated:
One of the projects that we’ve been working on this year is a survey to all candidates in the upcoming state elections. We hope it will serve as a barometer to gauge the candidates’ stance on ethics related issues. The survey is open ended, and focuses on the often problematic relationship between lobbyists and legislators. An open ended survey allows candidates to respond more precisely to the question posed, thus providing you and us a more complete picture of a candidate’s stance on issues. Of the 370 surveys sent out, more than half have been returned, and we are continuing to receive responses. We have gone to great lengths to ensure as many candidates as possible will respond, in an effort to provide the most comprehensive picture of state ethics support possible. To date, each non-respondent has been contacted via telephone to check the status of our survey, once again, in hopes of coming as close to a full response rate as possible.
Some of the specifics the survey addresses include the legitimacy of lobbyists conducting fund raising ventures for candidates, support for “sunshine” legislation that would require disclosure of the name and occupation of anyone contributing more than $10,000 to a campaign, and restrictions on political parties for donating to candidates. The survey also questions lobbyists’ involvement with PACs and asks if members of the Council of State should be allowed to solicit money for charities. These issue areas allow us to discern how a candidate feels towards ethics issues, and will provide a reference point for drafting legislation or soliciting support for ethics issues in the future.
Of particular interest to us are the gubernatorial candidates, and thus far we have received responses from the entire field. Sunshine legislation and a strict adherence to ethics laws are important for any elected official, and in the case of the chief executive, this importance is magnified greatly. Additionally, an executive who strongly favors campaign finance reform and greater transparency in the relationships between lobbyists and legislators will be a valuable ally in advancing an ethics related agenda in the future.
The Raleigh News & Observer recently featured an article about our survey and the gubernatorial candidates’ responses. This article and other information about the survey can be found at our website www.nclobbyreform.org. Additionally, you can see what your elected representative said to our survey, and help in the process to keep them accountable on ethics related issues.
Limiting the role of special interest money in politics is imperative to ensure citizens and constituencies are represented in a manner that is congruent with the spirit and letter of the laws of a democratic political system. When external forces govern an elected official’s agenda, the representative system ceases to be an instrument of the people, and instead becomes a vehicle through which to advance personal interests of a select group. The aim of sunshine legislation and ethics reform is to reduce the opportunity for these groups to circumvent the political process; thereby ensuring voters will remain the central focus in state politics.