As former Republican and Democratic governors, we often disagree. But here’s one area where we agree: North Carolina’s courts must be protected from the corrosive influence of special-interest campaign money.
Judges in North Carolina run for election; that can lead to the awkward situation of judges raising large campaign donations from those who appear in their courts. To prevent possible corruption, North Carolina began a public campaign financing program in 2004.
The program provides a statewide voter guide and an alternative source of campaign money to candidates for the NC Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, if they meet certain public trust conditions. They must accept strict spending limits, raise hundreds of small donations from voters to show broad support, and refuse PAC donations.
The program has been very successful. It frees judges from the endless money chase and prevents the appearance that justice is for sale. The program is voluntary and does not use an appropriation from the NC General Fund.
State legislators are debating changes in how we select our judges, but let’s all agree on this: As long as judges are elected, we must keep and strengthen the judicial public financing program. For more details, see ncvce.org.