Ten Years, Many Victories

One decade ago, NC Voters for Clean Elections was formed as North Carolina’s campaign finance reform coalition.

Over the year’s our coalition has accomplished a lot: increasing transparency, holding politicians accountable, and creating alternative Voter-Owned Elections programs for appellate judges and the Council of State.

Highlights from a Decade of Campaign Finance Reform Work in NC:

1999:  Candidates Must Stand by their Ads
New “stand by your ad” law requires sponsors of political ads attacking a candidate to appear in the ads and acknowledge their sponsorship.

2000:  No Donations from Lobbyists during Session
New law restores the prohibition against lobbyists making political donations while the General Assembly is in session.

2001:  State Board of Elections Sharpens Teeth
New law strengthens the enforcement ability of the State Board of Elections, creating a wider range of tools that the SBOE can use, including stiff civil fines for violations of campaign finance laws and an extended statute of limitation for criminal prosecution.
New law requires more frequent disclosure for candidates in municipal elections

2002:  NC Leads the Nation in Judicial Campaign Reform
New Judicial Campaign Reform Act provides a public financing option for appellate judges, creating the nation’s first comprehensive public financing program for judicial elections.
Non-partisan voter guide created to provide voters with more information about judicial candidates.

2003:  One Step Forward for Municipal Public Financing
State Senate approves a bill to provide an option for cities and counties to sponsor public financing program for local elections. Unfortunately, the bill does not pass the House

2004:  Judicial Public Financing Proves its Worth
First implementation of the Judicial Campaign Reform Act is a success with 12 of 16 candidates enrolling in public financing. 
As a result of the program, contributions from lawyers and litigation-interested PACs fall from 73% of total campaign spending to just 14%.

2005:  Lobbying Reform Round 1:  Disclosure and Cooling Off
New law overhauls regulation of lobbyists, greatly expanding disclosure of spending, beginning a “cooling off” period before state officials can be lobbyists, and covering executive-branch lobbying under all regulations.   
The law represents the first major lobbying reform overhaul since 1991.

2006:  Round 2:  Ethics Commission, Gift Bans, and Disclosure
New law establishes the state’s first Ethics Commission, creates requirements for conflict-of-interest disclosure statements, and expands gift restrictions.
Two new laws beef up regulations of 527 committees and similar groups sponsoring phony “issue ads” that name candidates after the candidate-filing period ends.

2007:  Voter-Owned Elections Expands to New Offices
New law establishes public campaign financing options for three offices of the Council of State: State Auditor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Commissioner of Insurance.
General Assembly authorizes the town of Chapel Hill to create a Voter-Owned Elections program for its municipal elections.

2008:  Chapel Hill Creates NC’s First Municipal VOE Program
Chapel Hill creates state’s first full public financing program for municipal elections, and one of only three similar programs in the nation.  Law allows candidates to run for town office using only small donor and public support.
Council of State Program sees high participation and produces a dramatic drop in fundraising from regulated industries.
Third cycle of judicial public financing sees 92% candidate participation rate.

2009:  Progress for Council of State and Municipal Reform
Senate approves a bill to create a permanent, expanded, and funded Council of State program.
House approves a bill to authorize additional municipalities to create local public financing programs. 
Law creates code of ethics for locally elected officials, including a requirement for those officials to receive ethics training.