Here is a press release that Chase Foster from the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections sent out yesterday you can see their web site CLICKHERE .
N.C. Voters for Clean Elections
March 12, 2009
Contact: Rep. Rick Glazier, 919-733-5601;
Chase Foster, NCVCE Director, 919-521-4121
BILL WOULD EXPAND SUCCESSFUL COUNCIL OF STATE PROGRAM, END CANDIDATE RELIANCE ON SPECIAL INTEREST FUNDING
Candidates running for State Treasurer and Commissioner of Labor could soon stop raising money from regulated groups and special interests if a bill being filed today becomes law.
Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake), Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake), and Rep. Ray Rapp (D-Madison) are filing a bill today that would expand the state’s Voter-Owned Elections program to five additional statewide executive offices. The bill has 53 total sponsors.
A program that gained bipartisan participation in 2008 already offers a public financing option for candidates for State Auditor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Commissioner of Insurance. This proposed legislation would expand the program to include candidates for Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Commissioner of Labor.
State Treasurer Janet Cowell said she supports the legislation because it would allow candidates for State Treasurer to realistically run without relying on contributions from regulated groups.
“Public financing is a proven reform that gives voters more control over government, makes public officials more accountable to constituents and levels the playing field,” Cowell said. “It also allows for greater transparency and avoids the appearance of conflicts of interest.”
Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin also endorsed the legislation, saying that the program had been a boon to grassroots campaigning in his race this past year. “It allowed me to spend more time listening to voters at courthouses and barbecue joints and festivals and senior centers all along the campaign trail,” he said. “The program should be expanded, so that those offices can benefit from a return to grassroots democracy as well.”
State Auditor Beth Wood said she supports the Voter-Owned Elections legislation, citing its ability to increase the diversity of candidates running for office. “This program opens the door for all qualified candidates to run for office,” she said. “Elections should be about your community support, not about your ability to raise money.”
And Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson also praised the bill, calling the program’s voter guide—which would include profiles of all statewide office seekers and be mailed to millions of North Carolina households—a boon for voter engagement. “It allows us to put our qualifications directly in front of the voters, without having to rely on other media forms,” she said. “This way voters can make an informed choice about which candidates to support for these important offices.”
Under Voter-Owned Elections, candidates are able to receive a public grant to finance their campaign if they demonstrate broad community support and agree to strict spending and fundraising limits. Candidates who participate in the Council of State program are barred from most PAC money, out-of-state donations, and contributions over $200, and are not allowed to fundraise during the six months prior to the general election.
Rep. Glazier said the Council of State pilot succeeded beyond people’s expectations in last year’s election, dramatically reducing the fundraising role of special interest groups and allowing a diverse group of candidates to run without relying on large checks or special interest groups. “We want to build on this success and allow other offices to experience this program’s benefit,” he said. “Candidates should be able to run for Commissioner of Labor or Insurance without relying on money from the industries those offices regulate.”
In recent years, the Council of State has been dogged by the perception that its officeholders have been unduly influenced by their campaign donors. But reform organizations say public campaign financing is helping to change that perception. A report conducted by NC Voters for Clean Elections found that in 2004 66% of then-Commissioner of Insurance Jim Long’s itemized campaign money came from industries regulated directly by the insurance department. In 2008, this number dropped to less than 5% of the campaign money received by current-Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, reflecting a stark change in the race’s money dynamic.
According to the 2008 Commissioner of Insurance candidates, the Voter-Owned Elections altered the culture and climate of the insurance race as well, with 22 one-on-one debates and a near level playing field when it came to campaign spending. John Odom the Republican nominee and Wayne Goodwin, the Democratic nominee wrote a joint guest column together a few weeks before the November election, saying the program allowed them to spend more time with voters and better prepare themselves for service.
“Every day we know there’s no need to schmooze with powerful industry leaders and VIPs,” they wrote for the Fayetteville Observer. “Every day we are relieved by the knowledge that we can spend the entire day listening to voters and serving the people of North Carolina.”
Glazier said he is confident that the legislation would prove valuable for the rest of the Council of State. “By removing even the perception of a conflict of interest, this program increases public confidence in government.”
Director, NC Voters for Clean Elections