NC Pilot Program for Public Campaign Financing

Yesterday, the full Select Committee on Ethics & Govt Reform in the NC House approved recommending a pilot program of public financing for legislative races.

Right now, NC only has a public financing program for statewide judicial races and Democracy NC and the coalition for Voter Owned Elections have been working on getting the legislature to expand the program to council of state races. Members of this committee were interested in testing public financing for legislative races… a step in the right direction!

There was no outspoken opposition on the committee, but many Members of were missing at the time of the vote. The bill for the pilot program will be one of 10 bills introduced as a report from the committee when the Session begins today. 

This is a good bill, especially as a starting place for public financing. The program follows the general model of the judicial reform program:

-        Candidates declare that they want to participate

-        Accept spending and fundraising limits

-        Gather a large number of qualifying contributions from registered voters in their district (between $10 and $100)

-        Become eligible for rescue money in the primary if opposition spends more than the spending they accepted

-        Get a grant and possible rescue money in the general election if they are the nominee. 

The pilot will be tried in 4 districts, 2 in the House and 2 in the Senate.  On another matter, quickly, the bill to strengthen Lobbying Reform also passed, with new restrictions on political contributions from lobbyists and partial gift bans. The lobbying reforms would:

* Ban nearly all gifts by lobbyists. Exceptions include permitting them to pay for meals at public events, or providing gifts worth $10 or less per legislator on a given day.

* Expand the waiting period for lawmakers to become lobbyists after they are out of office from six months to one year.

* Prevent lobbyists from serving on a state board that regulates a client’s activities.