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What have Voter-Owned Elections done for you?

When President Obama went on The Daily Show two days ago, he highlighted one of his administration’s key accomplishments:

[W]e have empowered state insurance commissioners to review the rate hikes that are taking place in states. And some states, like North Carolina, they’ve already used it and rolled back premium increases by 25 percent.

But that benefit to North Carolinians didn’t happen by accident. State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin used the federal Affordable Care Act to engage in tough negotiations with state insurers that freed up $155.8 million in contract reserves — money that went back into the pockets of state consumers.

Are you surprised that North Carolina was one of the first states to roll back insurance premiums for average citizens like yourself?

I’m not.  The North Carolina insurance commissioner’s race is publicly-funded election. In 2008, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for Commissioner of Insurance chose Voter-Owned Elections by raising small qualifying contributions between $10 and $200 from registered North Carolina voters.

A NC Voters for Clean Elections study of the Commissioner of Insurance race found that the percentage of campaign money taken from regulated industries (e.g., the insurance industry) dropped from 66% in 2004 to less than 5% in 2008.  Overall, the total money the insurance industry spent on the election dropped six-fold, despite the race being significantly more competitive.

The result: Neither candidate, including the winner Wayne Goodwin, were beholden to the insurance industry that the commissioner regulates — making it a lot easier to fight for consumers’ interests.

Having an elected official who is willing to stand up to the special interests can and did save North Carolinians tens of millions of dollars.

In this election season marked by record-shattering special interest spending, I wonder: What if we had more elected officials who weren’t beholden to special interests? What if we had more voter-owned elected officials who able to stand up for ordinary North Carolinians?

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