The final two recommendations in the Civitas Institute 2010 Agenda: “20 Changes for 2010: A Primer for State Reform” focus on cleaning up corruption in state government, enacting meaningful ethics reform and making state government and elected officials’ actions more transparent to its citizens.
The Problem(s): Jim Black, Mike Easley, Ruffin Poole, Meg Scott Phipps, Kevin Geddings, and Thomas Wright (to name just a few).
Over the past few years, North Carolina has seen its Speaker of the House and Commissioner of Agriculture sent to prison, a key aide to the Governor indicted, and many more elected officials under investigation. The ethical problems of the state has become so pervasive that according to a January 2010 Civitas poll, 50 percent of voters think the average official in North Carolina tends to be unethical and dishonest versus just 34 percent of voters who believe elected officials are ethical and honest.
While an end to North Carolina’s ethical problems will only come by electing ethical people to office along with dramatically reducing the power and influence of government, there are some significant steps that can be made now to increase transparency in government and political campaigns.
19.) Enhance transparency in state government
- Require disclosure by appointees to Boards and Commissions, as proposed in the 2009 bill H944 (Glazier, D-Cumberland; Stam, R-Wake; Ross, D–Wake; Tillis, R-Mecklenburg):
- Direct appointees to state boards and commissions to report their campaign contributions to appointing elected officials. Also require that appointees to the state’s top regulatory boards and commissions report their contributions and fundraising activities on behalf of elected officials with appointing authority.
- Unfortunately, H944 stalled in a Senate committee after passing the House
- Make employment-related information on state government applicants and all salary history available for public inspection.
- Forbid companies owned by elected officials and their families from bidding on state contracts.
- Make financial disclosure forms more thorough by requiring disclosure of all properties owned, other relationships with lobbyists, filing in final year in office and make all reports available online.
- Prohibit legislators from asking lobbyists for contributions to charitable organizations. (And perhaps ban legislators from serving on the boards of charitable organizations that receive money from the state).
20.) Increase Transparency in Campaigns
- Require electronic filing for all state candidates.
- Change filing deadlines to quarterly filing in non-election years, monthly in election years.
- Ban “Pay to Play,” similar to legislation proposed in 2009 in H961 (Glazier, D-Cumberland; Stam R-Wake; Ross, D–Wake; Goodwin, D-Richmond):
- Prohibit campaign contributions from state contractors to elected officials
- H961 also died in a Senate committee after passing in the House
- Give State Board of Elections authority to examine bank accounts of campaign committees.