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Matt Clark

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.

OMB Watch just released a report “How Nonprofits Helped America Vote: 2006 ”, which describes how 501c3 organizations have been

fighting for our democracy on three fronts:

  1. Defending voters’ rights, especially those of low-income, disabled and minority voters, against unscrupulous attempts to disenfranchise them
  2. Protecting the integrity of our elections
  3. Proactively working to expand and educate the electorate

Here’s a salute to some of the nonprofit organizations in North Carolina and their staff members who worked diligently throughout this legislative session to protect and promote our democracy:

Common Cause NC

Democracy North Carolina

NC Center for Voter Education

NC Coalition for Lobbying Reform

Thanks to their efforts, citizens will now benefit from same day voter registration, public campaign financing for 3 statewide offices and open ethics hearings.

submitted by Chase Foster, NCVCE



NCVCE's number one bill this session–HB-1517 "Voter-Owned Elections Pilot"—was tentatively approved in the House today!   
The bill passed 53-52, with Speaker Hackney breaking the tie.   Though we were hoping for a more solid margin we're happy that the bill was successful in today's vote.    On Wednesday, it was reported favorably out of House Appropriations 39-34.

There's a summary of the debate:

Reps. Glazier, Ross, Rapp, Martin, Underhill, and Coleman all did an excellent job explaining why this is such an important and needed program. 

Rep. Ross spoke about the success of North Carolina's judicial program and why the Council of State is a logical place to expand campaign public financing because so much of the money raised in Council of State races comes from groups and individuals regulated by Council of State agencies. 

Rep. Underhill focused on how the bill would improve education about the role and function of North Carolina's Council of State agencies through its voter guide provision and requirements for participating candidates to run mostly fundraising-free (after collecting "qualifying donations") community-based, grassroots campaigns.

And Rep. Coleman described how the "pay to play" system hurts the democratic process and why "Voter-Owned Elections" help less wealthy candidates, especially women and people of color who are often at a fundraising disadvantage in statewide races. 

For more information read Chris Fitzsimon's take on the day's arguments.

Today (Saturday) HB-1517 will be heard in the House on third reading where we're also hopeful there will be a good outcome. 
Once passed by the House, HB-1517 will head to the Senate.   The bill will be referred to the Senate Select Committee on Government and Election Reform which will meet next on Monday at 1pm.