Wow! Yesterday, Art Pope personally intervened to stop an amendment that would have saved the judicial public financing program from certain death. He came to the House Speaker’s office, pretending to act on behalf of the Governor in his role as McCrory’s Budget Director. But the amendment had NO impact on the state budget. Pope got it killed anyway, according to this detailed report by the Institute for Southern Studies. The move reveals how deeply disturbed Pope is about a policy that frees candidates from the money chase. Keeping politicians tied to the treadmill of private fundraising gives big money suppliers like Pope a handsome advance in the election process.
Ironically, the amendment Pope opposed was prepared by Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican attorney from western NC who once worked for the John Locke Foundation. He thought he had a good compromise that would satisfy those who hate “taxpayer financed” elections and those who recognize the problem of judges raising money from special interests, attorneys and big donors. His amendment accepted the provisions in the proposed House budget to end the $3 taxpayer check-off and transfer $3.5 million from the Public Campaign Fund into the general budget; but unlike the budget bill, it would continue the $50 fee that attorneys pay into the Fund – outside the budget process. (Attorneys can earmark all $50 toward producing the judicial voter guide, which the Public Campaign Fund also finances.)
The revenue from the attorney fee, plus the remaining money in the Fund, would keep alive the option of public grants for qualifying judges and voter guides for voters. It was a decent compromise, given the political realities in the NC General Assembly. But Art Pope stepped in and vetoed it.