RALEIGH — North Carolina’s very own right wing think tank announced today it opposes the expansion of public financing of elections beyond judicial races. Saying that such a move would “only hurt taxpayers and the democratic process,” the John Locke Foundation policy has trumped up yet another sham policy report to push their free-market-at-any-cost agenda. And in this case, the "cost" is the freedom and fairness of our elections.
Under North Carolina’s Judicial Campaign Reform Act of 2002, candidates for the N.C. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court can choose to pursue public funding of their campaigns instead of raising their own money. Election reform organizations such as Democracy NC have shown that this approach helps keep candidates independent and free from special interests.
Not surprisingly, the John Locke Foundation disagrees. “The idea of having taxpayers finance campaigns is based on the assumption that policymakers know how much campaigns should cost,” says Daren Bakst of the Foundation. “This is impossible. One size does not fit all. One candidate may need much more money than another candidate.”
“Bakst and the John Locke Foundation are entitled to their opinion,” says Anglico of BlueNC. “But that doesn’t mean it has any merit. This is not about knowing what it costs to run campaigns. This is about countering the influence of corporate money in politics. Art Pope has never met an election he didn’t want to buy. He hates the idea that his personal influence might be diminished by election reform legislation.”
Rather than singing the praises of free-markets, Anglico says, Bakst should be focusing on integrity and the common good. “Some things are more important than the marketplace – especially fair elections. Election reform gets at the heart of democracy and opens access to candidates who aren’t backed by big business. Under the new legislation, candidates have to demonstrate grassroots support before they qualify for public funding.”
Businesses are influencing elections in North Carolina at an alarming rate, says Anglico. They even controlling the actually machinery of voting. “I know the right wing would like to sustain the ability of big businesses and special interest groups to buy elections,” he says. “That’s how they’ve taken control of government at the federal level, and they trying to do it in North Carolina as well. But I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers had in mind. Sometimes the “free market” isn’t so free, especially when it subverts the common good. And today it is having the effect of locking average people out of the opportunity to run for office. The right wing doesn’t care about what’s good for North Carolina people. They only care about what’s good for business. Those are not the same thing."
If you want to get into the details of election reform in North Carolina, there's no better place to start than here.