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By: Dr. Sally Goerner, Director
The Integral Science Institute

As we celebrate the second anniversary of the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision giving corporations the right to buy our elections, it is important to remember that this ruling is just as disastrous for business and the economy as it was for democracy. Understanding how money in politics harms business can help bridge some of our left-right divide and create a truly All-American, purple-state movement.

The root problem is not profit or corporations per se, its size and influence. In America, big money buys big favors ? and, big favors tilt the economic playing-field toward the already large and wealthy. If you’re not big and rich enough to buy special favors, you lose. Read More

After being elected to office in an historic post Citizens United election, first term Republicans Senators Jim Davis, Ralph Hise, and Warren Daniel put forth Senate Bill 657.

This bill aims to ban Sunday or “Souls to the Polls” voting in North Carolina, eliminate early voter registration for 16-17 year olds, limit the early voting period to 8-9 days, limit the available day time hours of early voting locations and completely eliminate election-day voter registration in North Carolina.

Jim Morrill has a great piece on Senate bill 657 in the Charlotte Observer.

Heading into a presidential election in which North Carolina could be pivotal, a new Republican-backed bill would curtail early voting in the state and bar new voters from registering at the polls.

The Senate bill introduced last week would shrink the early-voting period by at least a week, end it on Sundays and stop so-called “same-day registration.”

Read more here.

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The state’s independent elections experts, Bob Hall of Democracy NC, released this report connecting the top recipients of Blue Cross contributions to Insurance Exchange bill sponsors:

The House Insurance Committee will take up a controversial bill (H-115) today that gives insurance companies a large role in overseeing how consumers can buy affordable insurance coverage through a state-level “health benefits exchange” created under the new national health reform law. Read More

Special interest TV spending in state judicial races has surged nationally, to the tune of $3.3 million for the week of October 21-27, 2010, according to the Justice at Stake Campaign.  This puts the state judicial TV spending spree at $13 million for the 2009-2010 election cycle.

Frightening, considering scandals like the 2004 West Virginia election, when the CEO of Massey Coal spent $3 million to help elect Brent Benjamin to the state’s highest court. This is even more alarming considering how the recent Supreme Court decision Citizens United has opened the floodgates for special interest spending, putting the 2010 election on track to be the most expensive election in history.

Spending is already up 40% from 2008 presidential election according to the Campaign Finance Institute, and is expected to grow as spending peaks prior to Election Day.

Fortunately, North Carolina has a system to stop judicial elections from being overtaken by special interest spending. After the state enacted the nation’s first judicial public financing program in 2002, the percent of money from attorneys and litigation-interested PACs went from 73% to the total before the program and 14% after. Voter-Owned Elections or public financing gets to the core problem — the dependency of politicians on private campaign money that all too often come with strings attached.

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?