A new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics finds that North Carolina’s recently repealed system of providing public financing for judicial campaigns had been doing what it was designed to do — namely, to reduce the influence of special interest money and the need for candidates to be rich (or beg money from others who are). Here’s the overview:
“On August 12, 2013, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a controversial voter identification bill into law. The bill included a measure repealing the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund, a system of publicly financing candidates for election to the state’s supreme and appellate courts.
To determine what impact the repeal of the Fund may have on financing future judicial elections in the Tar Heel State, the National Institute on Money in State Politics analyzed the contributions to the state’s supreme court candidates before (2000-2002) and during (2004-2012) the existence of the Public Campaign Fund. While this report does not evaluate outside spending, independent expenditure data targeting North Carolina supreme court races is available at FollowTheMoney.org.
The analysis revealed that public financing greatly affected fundraising in North Carolina’s supreme court campaigns. The percent of private contributions declined considerably when the program was in effect, from 77 percent during the 2000 and 2002 elections to 40 percent during races held between 2004 and 2012. As well, contributions from candidate committees and political parties declined significantly after public funding became an option. Further, races involving publicly financed candidates were more monetarily competitive than those without. The one constant, however, was that lawyers and lobbyists were the largest source of private contributions to supreme court candidates, both before and while the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund was in effect.”
In other words, it was reducing the influence of fats cats and other big money special interests and making it at least possible for normal citizens to run for office who were not independently wealthy or beholden to people who were.
No wonder the folks currently in charge of state government were so hellbent on repealing it.
Reporter Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer has more on the story here.