In the midst of Super PAC spending and candidates hustling big-dollar donors, here’s a positive story from North Carolina: Candidates are actually agreeing to accept strict campaign spending limits and to rely only on small donations and a public grant authorized by hundreds of registered voters!
Today, the State Board of Elections sent notices to all eight candidates for the NC Supreme Court and NC Court of Appeals that they had fulfilled the necessary requirements to qualify for public grants to partly support their campaigns. To qualify, the candidates raised scores of relatively small donations from registered voters and accepted strict spending and fundraising limits (e.g., no PAC or out-of-state donations). The two candidates running against each other for a seat on the state Supreme Court will each receive $240,100 in public funds. The six running for three seats on the NC Court of Appeals each receive $164,400. The public funds come from a voluntary check-off on the NC tax form and a surcharge on fees paid by attorneys.
This is the first election cycle in which all candidates in statewide judicial elections qualified for public funds – a record made more significant because the US Supreme Court recently ruled that no additional “rescue funds” may be awarded if a qualifying candidate is later hit by large spending from an outside group or opposing candidate. See this report for an analysis of the public financing program through 2010.
In addition, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and State Auditor Beth Wood both qualified to receive public support for their re-election campaigns after gathering hundreds of small donations from registered voters. They will each receive about $214,000 beginning with an initial payment of $71,419 that the State Board of Elections authorized today.